By Adam Hollingworth
Questions are being raised about whether it would be possible to enforce a smoking ban in all of Auckland’s public areas.
Public health specialists say they want to extend the current ban on smoking in public buildings to the outdoors, but it may not be easy to police.
Dr Richard Hoskins of the Auckland Public Health Service says any exposure to tobacco smoke gives you a degree of risk.
“We can't say a public place causes exactly this amount of risk, we know it contributes to the overall risk,” he says.
A ban could include Auckland’s parks, as well as beaches and squares like Aotea Square – where smokers are fuming at the idea.
It may sound ridiculous to some, but bar-owners in Vulcan Lane are already worried that patrons who have moved onto the pavement to smoke will now simply get moved on and stay away.
Astrid Fisher of the Hospitality Association says she cannot imagine how it would be enforced.
“It's obviously up to the authorities but I think it would be difficult, it's fair to say.”
In fact, 12 of Auckland’s 21 local boards have already made sports fields, parks and playgrounds smoke-free. Signs will be erected in coming months but it will not go much farther than that.
Waitemata Local Board member Jesse Chalmers says they are not going to “run around after people, asking them to drop their cigarettes”.
“The idea is that the community will help each other to stop smoking in these areas so it'll help community members to approach people, ask them to stop smoking.”
Auckland Council looks like it too will butt out of employing a tobacco police.
In a statement, the council said it could technically make a bylaw to restrict smoking but problems had surfaced with other local authorities because of smokers' human rights, difficulties in enforcement and the cost and time of developing legislation.