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Article | Attitudes of Business People to Proposed Smokefree Shopping Streets

Abstract

Objective: To investigate the attitudes of business people toward a possible smokefree policy along a route of major shopping streets, the “Golden Mile” (GM) in central Wellington, New Zealand.

Methods: Businesses on the GM (n = 303) were visited in June–July 2011. Either the owner or manager from each business was surveyed.

Results: A response rate of 65.6% (n = 198) was achieved, with 13.3% declining to participate, and further contact not being productive for 21.2%. Support for making the GM smokefree was 43.4% (95% CI = 36.7%–50.4%), with the remainder opposed. There was significantly higher support among business people who were nonsmokers versus smokers (relative risk = 2.95; 95% CI = 1.48–5.89). Overall, 83.3% (95% CI = 77.0%–88.0%) of respondents stated that a smokefree GM would have either a positive or negligible impact on their business (nonconcern), compared with a negative impact (at 16.7%). Nonconcern about the business impact of a smokefree GM was significantly greater for nonfood businesses (89.9%) versus food businesses (64.0%; p < .001), after adjusting for respondent age, smoking status, and gender in logistic regression models.

Conclusions: The modest support for introducing a smokefree streets policy by GM business people may reflect the negligible promotion of the idea in this setting. Nevertheless, the likely business impact of a smokefree streets policy was not a concern for the large majority of these business people, so this may not be a significant barrier to policy development. This type of study can contribute to the process for developing smokefree streets and other outdoor areas, by gauging sector support.

Citation: Patel, V., Thomson, G., & Wilson, N. (2012). Attitudes of Business People to Proposed Smokefree Shopping Streets. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, advance access, doi: 10.1093/ntr/nts115

Media Release | 11 June 2012

‘Smokefree city streets not a problem for business’

Businesses surveyed on Wellington’s central city ‘Golden Mile’ streets have little concern about the possible financial impact of a smokefree streets policy.

Public health researchers from University of Otago, Wellington, asked 198 owners and managers of street level businesses what impact a smokefree ‘Golden Mile’, would have on their business (positive, negli¬gible or negative).

Most at 64% thought there would be negligible impact and 20% a positive impact, with only 17% predicting a negative impact. The survey found that businesses selling food, especially those that had outdoor eating areas, are more likely to anticipate a negative impact, but 60% or more of even these respondents indicated little concern.

A study author, Associate Professor Nick Wilson said: “These findings suggest that the business community’s attitude may not be a barrier to City Councils adopting smokefree streets”.

“It could even be the case that by making the centre city more attractive, smokefree streets could increase business activity,” he says. A previous survey of pedestrians showed majority support for a smokefree ‘Golden Mile’.

Co-author Dr George Thomson, says that “smokefree shopping areas in cities in the United States, Japan and Australia are increasingly common. In Australia, councils are deciding that the retail hearts of cities such as Brisbane, Hobart and Adelaide are cleaner and more attractive when smokefree.” Australian states and local councils are also introducing smokefree outdoor areas for cafés and restaurants.

In Auckland, the suburbs of Botany and Otara are working towards having smokefree shopping areas. Meanwhile in both Australia and New Zealand, survey results indicate that over 75% of people do not want smoking outdoors when children are present. Thomson said that “this concern is compatible with parents wanting a smokefree future for their children”.

In 2009 and 2012, petitions asked the Wellington City Council to create a smokefree ‘Golden Mile’ and in April, the Wellington Council asked their staff to investigate options for smokefree playgrounds, parks and reserves.

Dr Wilson says such smokefree policy decisions are all helpful steps towards denormalising smoking and preparing New Zealand for the Government’s goal of a smokefree nation by 2025.

“These moves may also help ratepayers by reducing city cleaning costs. It would also reduce pollution of Wellington Harbour from cigarette butts washing into the sea through the storm water system,” says Wilson.

This research had funding support from the Cancer Society of New Zealand. It was published in the international journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.

Originally published on the University of Otago news page.