Smoke-free areas hazy for some in Auckland city

April 19, 2016

Smoke-free areas hazy for some in Auckland city

Smoke-free sign found on Auckland CBD's Darby Street which is a 'Shared Space'. Photo: Lydia Lewis

There is confusion surrounding a lack of clarity between smoke-free and smoking areas in some parts of the Auckland CBD.

However, an Auckland Council review of the city’s smoke-free policy will not seek to address the issue.

Currently, many businesses and large organisations in the inner city choose to be smoke-free, and shared spaces are required to be smoke-free also, but public footpaths and streets are not included in the bans.

AUT University is one such organisation that has a smoke-free policy. People wanting a nicotine fix are meant to smoke off-campus, and can be asked to move. However, off-campus is only a step away in many cases.

AUT University learning advisor for disability services, Sue Beechey, said the lack of clear boundaries between smoke-free and smoking areas impacted on her health and comfort at work.

Many smokers take to the street outside her office in the city campus in an area commonly referred to as ‘Smokers Corner’.

Mrs Beechey said family and friends had noticed her coughing since starting to work in the building.

She believes the grids outside the office building suck outside air – along with second-hand smoke – inside which then circulates around.

“It certainly bothers me, you can see it is blowing but it depends on the wind whether it goes over the childcare centre or if it comes here.”

AUT University student, Jung Wooklee, said he’s been moved offsite by staff once because he was unaware AUT was a smoke-free area.

He now smokes on the footpath outside Mrs Beechey’s office.

“There was a sign and I was kind of out [of the area] but I was a step into the AUT property so they said to move, so I just moved a step out . . . it is a dirty habit.”

Mrs Beechey said she could sympathise with smokers as she was once one herself.

However, she now bangs on the window to try to stop people smoking directly outside.

“I think the window is going to break one day.”

The Auckland Council is currently in the early stages of reviewing the city’s smoke-free policy, as it works toward becoming smoke-free by 2025.

However, council policy analyst Jasmin Kaur said the review doesn’t take main streets or their footpaths such as those around the AUT campus into account as they are not part of the next phase of the smoke-free policy.

Auckland Council is aiming to reduce second-hand smoke in the city due to potential health risks, according to its website.

Ms Kaur said the council has moved its focus away from enforcement and banning smoking, instead choosing to build awareness around the risks.

“We don’t tell people they cannot smoke. We are aware that it is a habit so that’s why the behavioural changes are what we are focused on,” she said.

Auckland has had a three-stage policy for reducing smoking in the city since 2013.

Auckland smokers have their say about signage in Smoke-Free areas. Video: Lydia Lewis

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