10 December 2004
New smokefree era celebrated
Associate Health Minister Damien O'Connor today welcomed the start of a new era for New Zealand.
All workplaces went smokefree at midnight last night, a move Mr O'Connor hailed as exciting and timely.
"From all accounts, cheers erupted at bars right around the country when the clock struck twelve, and there was a huge
amount of celebration. Although it's early days, reports of compliance have also been very positive."
He said the new law was a proactive and comprehensive approach to reducing smoking harm. "No longer will non-smokers
have to put up with the blue haze of smoke-filled bars, with the stench of tobacco on their clothes the next day, and
with the risk that they may be one of the almost 400 people who die each year due to second hand smoke."
He said the time was right for the change. "There has been a huge amount of support for the move, from even the most
unexpected quarters. People really do see this as a positive step towards improving the health of New Zealanders.
"As someone said, 'the ban is an opportunity, not a calamity', and this is certainly the sense I'm getting from people.
A poll yesterday found a large majority of people would be more likely to frequent a bar or pub that was smokefree,
which suggest most people are ushering in the change with optimism and relief."
New Zealand was not alone in taking significant steps to reduce smoking harm. "More and more countries and states around
the world are taking similar steps, in what's proving to be a global trend towards protecting people's health."
Mr O'Connor said he'd like to thank the Hospitality Association for not only its cooperation, but also for its support
in the past year.
"The Association has worked closely with Ministry officials to ensure its members can comply with the least impact on
their business. The Association's assistance has been crucial and much appreciated."