Background: The New Zealand 2003 Smoke-free Environments Amendment Act (SEAA) extended existing restrictions on smoking in office and retail workplaces by introducing smoking bans in bars, casinos, members’ clubs, restaurants and nearly all other workplaces from 10 December 2004.
Objective: To evaluate the implementation and outcomes of aspects of the SEAA relating to smoke-free indoor workplaces and public places, excluding schools and early learning centres.
Methods: Data were gathered on public and stakeholder attitudes and support for smoke-free policies; dissemination of information, enforcement activities and compliance; exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS) in the workplace; changes in health outcomes linked to SHS exposure; exposure to SHS in homes; smoking prevalence and smoking related behaviours; and economic impacts.
Results: Surveys suggested growing majority support for the SEAA and its underlying principles among the public and bar managers. There was evidence of high compliance in bars and pubs, where most enforcement problems were expected. Self reported data suggested that SHS exposure in the workplace, the primary objective of the SEAA, decreased significantly from around 20% in 2003, to 8% in 2006. Air quality improved greatly in hospitality venues. Reported SHS exposure in homes also reduced significantly. There was no clear evidence of a short term effect on health or on adult smoking prevalence, although calls to the smoking cessation quitline increased despite reduced expenditure on smoking cessation advertising. Available data suggested a broadly neutral economic impact, including in the tourist and hospitality sectors.
Conclusion: The effects of the legislation change were favourable from a public health perspective. Areas for further investigation and possible regulation were identified such as SHS related pollution in semi-enclosed outdoor areas. The study adds to a growing body of literature documenting the positive impact of comprehensive smoke-free legislation. The scientific and public health case for introducing comprehensive smoke-free legislation that covers all indoor public places and workplaces is now overwhelming, and should be a public health priority for legislators across the world as part of the globalisation of effective public health policy to control the tobacco epidemic.
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