Mother's plea: 'Ban public smoking around schools' and playgrounds

A New Zealand mother has proposed a permanent ban on publicly smoking near schools and in playgrounds. 

"It is a personal preference for an adult to smoke. It is not a child's," writes Maria Foy on her blog Happy Mum Happy Child. "Especially a child who isn't even in a smoking environment at all and is only subjected to it." 

Ms Foy's call for a ban on smoking within 200m of a school echoes recent sentiment around banning smoking in cars with children. The AM Show's Duncan Garner called on the Government to implement a ban in August. 

Smoking in cars with children is touched on in Ms Foy's blog: "We all know that second-hand smoke is dangerous - especially in small confined spaces, like the home; and the car. So what makes people think that it's ok to smoke outside around other people's kids?"

Garner again raised the issue earlier this month when The AM Show started a petition - which has gained more than 5000 signatures - to ban smoking in cars with children. Legislation is already in place in a number of countries around the world, including Canada, Australia and the UK.   

In Canada, smoking is prohibited if there are children under 16 in the vehicle. Similar rules apply across Australia, as well as the UK where legislation in England and Wales makes it illegal to smoke in a vehicle carrying someone who is under 18.

Ms Foy wants the Government to ban smoking not just on school property, but "also within a certain radius around a school in public areas... as well as playgrounds, or even sports grounds... anywhere that kids are around".

She said all too often she has dropped her children off or picked them up from school to find another parent smoking while waiting outside the school for their child. Even worse, she says, is when she sees a parent smoking in their car outside the school. 

"I personally loathe the fact that parents openly smoke so close to school," she writes. "I myself hate walking through smoke, and I am even more disgusted knowing my child (or anyone else's) has to be subjected to it." 

Children can get sick if they breathe in second-hand smoke because their lungs are smaller and more delicate, according to Smoke Free NZ. Exposure can lead to heart disease, lung cancer, stroke or cancer around the nose.  

Asthma nurse educator Elaine Murray says children are particularly vulnerable to second-hand smoke, telling Newshub earlier this month that surveys have shown one in five children are exposed to smoke in cars each week - that's 100,000 children

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told The AM Show earlier this week that draft legislation has been drawn up on banning smoking in cars with children. It's now up for consultation and the Government will be getting feedback from third parties, such as police. 

"I'm feeling quite hopeful," she said. "We have now had some of the positions of different parties come into the public domain, so it'll be great to get wide-ranging support for it.

"It would be great if National chose to support it... they already debated it in the past and [didn't take action on the issue], but maybe they will have moved."

Ms Ardern says even if a law change comes in, ultimately there needs to be a "culture change". But Ms Foy believes the "damage has already been done". 

"We are still the ones who have to pay the price because of someone else's choice to smoke - and I don't think that's right. Especially at a playground (or even sports grounds) - where it's a child's place to be," she writes. 

"I propose is that a permanent ban is placed publicly within 200m of a school, and within all playgrounds. 

"At the moment you're obviously not allowed to smoke on school grounds, but that doesn't stop parents from standing outside of their car and lighting up."

The Government set a goal of New Zealand becoming smoke-free by 2025, but some 600,000 Kiwis are still smoking, according to Smoke Free NZ. And there is no legislation to stop people from smoking in cars with kids or around schools.  

In 2010, the Māori Affairs Select Committee began an inquiry into the tobacco industry and the effects of tobacco use on Māori. The inquiry found that while overall smoking rates were reducing, the rates among Māori and Pacific peoples were increasing.

The inquiry outlined measures "to remove tobacco from our country's future in order to preserve Māori culture for younger generations". It was because of this inquiry the 2025 goal was set.