Vaping could soon join smoking as a forbidden activity in city streets and parks in Hamilton.
The Hamilton City Council is set to revisit the issue of banning vaping at a meeting of its community committee on Tuesday, which could result in the organisation belatedly following the lead of other councils around the country – including the Hauraki and Matamata-Piako district councils – that have amended their Smokefree policies to include vaping.
In March last year the city council backed away from including vaping in a ban on smoking at council-owned and operated parks, playgrounds and buildings including the Hamilton Transport Centre, bus stops and at all council-operated events.
That reversal from a staff recommendation to include vaping in the ban was driven in an amendment by councillor Mark Bunting, who now chairs the community committee.
* City bans smoking in public places, holds off on vaping
* Massive support for switch to STV in Hamilton City Council survey
* Lawn and order: Council seeks more feedback on revised gardens vision
Bunting’s rationale for removing the references to vaping was that such a decision had to be based on sound medical evidence – and at that time the council did not have that.
Now they do. Staff, alongside representatives from the Waikato District Health Board and the Cancer Society furnished councillors with an abundance of information at a briefing in June.
That information indicated vaping continued to be seen as less harmful than cigarette smoking, but was not harmless, and ill health caused by second-hand vaping could not be ruled out.
The use of “vapes” or e-cigarettes – a battery powered metal tube vaporizer used to inhale nicotine infused with exotic flavors ranging from cinnamon to bubblegum – have increased markedly in recent years.
While vaping had been used by some smokers as a way to transition into non-smoking, it was also increasingly used by those that have never smoked, especially young people.
Last year school principals called for the Government to take firm action on teenagers vaping, and raised the spectre of a new generation of New Zealanders addicted to nicotine.
The Government has at least partially responded to their concerns: The new Vaping Amendment Act, which comes into force in November, aims to make e-cigarettes less appealing and available to teens, by banning advertising, toughening up the R18 sales limit and restricting flavours sold outside specialist vape shops – such as at dairies and supermarkets – to tobacco, menthol and mint.
What it does not include is directions for vaping in outdoor areas. However, as social development advisor Nick Chester points out in his recommendation to the committee, “including vaping within the [council’s] policy will create a greater degree of alignment to the intent of the new legislation, which is to reduce the normalisation of vaping in the community”.
In addition to making vaping a banned activity alongside cigarette smoking, the committee also has to consider a request from the DHB, to make the streets surrounding the Waikato Hospital campus and the Waiora building in the central city smoke- and vape-free areas.
The DHB became smokefree in 2006 but, over the last year, a growing number of smokers and vapers had been noticed puffing away around the hospital campus.
But if the committee adopts the staff recommendation in full, anyone at the hospital who wants to imbibe will have to wander out of that campus and beyond the streets surrounding it in order to do so.
Other areas where the vapers would join smokers include Garden Place, Civic Square, Victoria on the River, all of the Hamilton Gardens, all other council parks and open spaces, within 10 metres of any playground, and within two metres of any bus stop.