Twenty Christchurch cafes are making history with the first formal trial of smoke-free outdoor dining in New Zealand.
The pilot – aptly named the Fresh Air Project(external link) – will see 20 cafes make their outdoor dining areas completely smoke-free for the next six months, in bid to improve the health of customers and staff.
The project is a partnership between the Cancer Society and the Canterbury District Health Board, and endorsed by the Christchurch City Council.
Coffee Culture Merivale and Sumner owner Glenn Rewi said he expected most customers would be supportive of the trial.
“With any major changes in a business you’re going to get some feedback. It will turn some customers away but equally it will attract some more people in,” Mr Rewi said.
“I’d been thinking about doing it for the last couple of years and when I was approached about this, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to get on board, and it had the blessing from our head office.
“I’m confident it will become law, so we are going to have to do it sooner or later. If you look back a few years, the bars all kicked up a stink when they became smoke-free but people are still going there, bars are still making money, and customers are generally happier with it,” Mr Rewi said.
“I’m sure there will be a few ruffled feathers, but we’re hopeful that our customers will be understanding of why we’re doing it.”
Figures show 85 percent of Cantabrians don’t smoke, and research shows the majority of those are keen on smoke-free outdoor dining areas.
Martin Witt from the Cancer Society said the trial would allow Cantabrians and visitors to experience the benefits of smoke-free outdoor dining.
“Food tastes better, and being outside is nicer, when you don’t have smoke around you,” Mr Witt said. “Second hand smoke isn’t just unpleasant, it poses a real health risk which customers and hospitality staff shouldn’t have to be exposed to.
“As for smokers, we know that the more smoke-free environments there are, the easier it is to stop smoking. Most smokers want to quit, and being in a smoke-free environment reduces the triggers of those trying to do so.”
Mr Witt said the benefits of smokefree outdoor dining extended beyond customers and hospitality staff.
“When cafes and restaurants went smoke-free indoors in 2004 sales increased and we’re confident that the same thing will happen this time. We believe the fresh air will attract more families, and improve the overall dining experience.”
Christchurch City Councillor Glenn Livingstone said the pilot was a significant step towards the national goal of a smokefree New Zealand by 2025.
“It would be great if our next generation didn’t smoke, and this pilot takes us closer to that reality. Children copy what they see, so the less we expose our children to smoking, the less likely they will be to take up the habit,” Councillor Livingstone said.
Christchurch City Council has had a smoke-free policy in place at all Council-owned parks, playgrounds and sports fields since 2009. Last year it resolved to extend that policy to the main entrances and exits of Council buildings and facilities and to Council bus passenger shelters.
Compliance with the policy is voluntary and not enforced by the Council.