The six-month trial of a smokefree and vapefree zone in Hanmer Spring’s CBD back in 2019 was backed most by tourists, a study has revealed.
An evaluation of the Breathe easy in Hanmer Springs trial focused on measuring the level of support for the zone.
The village already asked people not to smoke in parks, playgrounds and reserves.
Visitors, residents and local businesses were surveyed during the trial and a total of 956 responded – 680 visitors, 222 residents and 54 business representatives.
READ MORE: Enforcement of vaping laws needs to ‘ramp up’ for youth – Verrall
The findings were published in the New Zealand Medical Journal on Friday.
The evaluation, led by the Cancer Society Canterbury-West Coast Division and the Canterbury DHB’s community and public health team, found 84% of visitors – both domestic and international – supported the zone being smokefree and vapefree.
Ninety-five per cent said they would be more likely or as likely to visit other places in the country which have no smoking/no vaping zones.
Meanwhile, 67% of residents supported the zone being smokefree and vapefree, while 63% of businesses did.
During the trial, observers found there was a reduction in the number of people visibly smoking and vaping within the CBD.
An evaluation report by the DHB in September 2019 noted those against the initiative had expressed concerns about the possible impact to business and tourism.
One business owner remarked at the beginning of the trial the town couldn’t afford to be picky. He remarked he was yet to find a business owner who said they voted for it.
However, most of the businesses which responded said the initiative had no overall effect on their business, including no notable effects on customer numbers, spending patterns or customer feedback.
The Cancer Society and the DHB had also undertaken surveys in 2017 and 2018 to gauge business support for further smokefree outdoor spaces in the village.
The 2017 survey was with 44 tourism-related businesses and 88% were in favour of a voluntary smokefree street zone. The 2018 survey was with 106 businesses and found 63% were in favour.
The Hanmer Springs Community Board endorsed the trial in June 2018.
November 2020 vaping legislation saw all workplaces, including bars and restaurants, required to be smokefree and vapefree, along with the buildings and grounds of schools, early childhood education and care centres.
Councils, businesses and workplaces can make their own vaping policies, as long as the minimum requirements of the law are met. Many have just amended their smokefree policy to include vapefree, according to the Ministry of Health.
In October 2021, smokefree areas in the Hurunui District also became vapefree. They include all parks, playgrounds and reserves, cemeteries, entrances of council-owned buildings, indoor areas of council rental properties and all events run by the council.
Former Cancer Society Canterbury-West Coast Division senior health promotion adviser and project lead Cheryl Ford told 1News they weren’t surprised by the results as they expected high support.
She remarked the evaluation showed there was “strong feeling” for smokefree and vapefree to be considered in the same area.
She also said it was “reassuring” 63% of the businesses who responded supported the zone being smokefree and vapefree.
Ford said she was “absolutely” happy the zone had been adopted post-trial.
Hanmer Springs Community Board chairwoman Mary Holloway told 1News there had been no efforts in place before the trial to reduce smoking on the town’s streets.
Like Ford, she said the board wasn’t surprised the move was most popular with visitors.
Holloway said there had been fears the zone might put off pub patrons, but she didn’t think they’d been borne out.
She said the trial had been permanently adopted due to the board’s unanimous support.
“We felt that it was also a good fit with the brand of Hanmer Springs as a spa village promoting wellness.”
Although there was “still a few local and visitor stalwart smokers” in the zone, Holloway said she found it encouraging how many people don’t smoke around the centre of the village.
Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall said it’s important to note that vaping can be an effective way to quit smoking.
“Restrictions should be mindful of the intent of the law which is to prevent the normalisation of vaping, while also allowing for smokers to use vaping as a way to quit the harms of smoked tobacco.”