Healthy Families Invercargill encouraging leadership in smokefree environments

Families in Invercargill may be able to breathe a little easier thanks to some of the leadership efforts of Healthy Families Invercargill.

Invercargill has a much higher smoking rate than the national average – 21.4 per cent of people in Invercargill smoke, compared with 17.5 per cent of people nationally, figures from the Analyses of New Zealand Health Survey and B4 School Check Data show.

But work being done to change the way smoking is perceived within the community is aiming to change those figures.

Healthy Families Invercargill has been collaborating for several years with other health-promoting organisations as part of the Smokefree Murihiku collective.

The collective played an active and significant role firstly in the conception of the Invercargill City Council’s smokefree areas policy, and later, the adoption of the policy.

A survey, conducted by Healthy Families Invercargill, was used to inform the policy, and data from that survey continues to be used, while a video submission commissioned by Healthy Families Invercargill and featuring more than 50 Invercargill residents, including some well-known faces, continues to be well received on social media.

The collective was key in the development of signage created as a result of the introduction of the smokefree areas policy, and those signs are now in the city’s CBD. Research is under way as to whether those signs have impacted the number of people smoking in the CBD.

Elles Road New World owner Bradley Patton, who is a member of the Healthy Families Invercargill Leadership Group, is also actively encouraging changes to public attitudes towards smoking.

His supermarket has recently introduced its own smokefree policy in its carpark.

Signs were put up declaring the area smokefree and since then, the number of cigarette butts left in the carpark has decreased, Bradley said.

“I decided to do it to encourage our customers to recognise that New World Elles Road supermarket is a shared space and exhaling smoke around other non-smokers, particularly children, is not ok,” he said.

Healthy Families Invercargill manager Jared Cappie said changing community attitudes towards smoking was not only an essential part of meeting government targets of a smokefree 2025, but was also vital when it came to empowering the community to become smokefree.

“We want to stop the next generation from smoking, and the best way to do that is by de-normalising the behaviour,” he said.

We need to all work together so we can be the fence at the top of the cliff, not the ambulance at the bottom.”

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