Health campaigners are urging MPs to extend smokefree laws after a survey found strong support from smokers.

In a poster displayed at an Indian conference, New Zealand university researchers showed that a majority of smokers surveyed expressed support for a range of measures to increase the control of tobacco.

These included banning retail tobacco displays (60 per cent support); extending smokefree laws to outdoor eating areas (78 per cent) and council playgrounds (68 per cent); and increasing tobacco tax (59 per cent) as long as the extra revenue was used to promote healthy lifestyles, including helping smokers who want to quit.

Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway wants to introduce a bill to ban retail displays - after the National-led Government refused to do so and cited lack of evidence of a direct link to reduced smoking rates. The Government, however, said it would consider supporting any new initiatives proven to reduce tobacco use significantly.

The health select committee said last year that Iceland's reduction in smoking of 3.8 percentage points from 2001 to 2005, the largest drop in Europe, could not be attributed solely to the banning of display units, because the measure was part of a comprehensive tobacco control programme.

One of the poster's authors, Dr Nick Wilson, a senior lecturer at Otago University, Wellington, said yesterday that smokers' views on where they wanted smoking bans imposed were "nuanced".

While almost all supported outlawing smoking in cars with preschoolers, nearly 90 per cent opposed banning it in the outdoor seating areas of pubs. And despite more than half supporting increasing taxes if they went into health promotion and quit-smoking schemes, a majority had said existing taxes on tobacco were too high.

The poster said the possible adverse effects of additional tax increases on the poor had been a political obstacle to their adoption.

But the findings of the Health Ministry-commissioned survey of 1376 smokers made a dedicated tax for quit-support and health promotion "more achievable".

"Higher support for dedicated tax revenue by the more deprived smokers indicates that smokers' desire for quitting support outweighs short-term financial self-interest."

At present the excise tax on tobacco is around $6 for a $10 pack of 20 cigarettes. It is increased annually in line with the consum er price index.

But anti-smoking groups, including Dr Murray Laugesen's Smokeless NZ, want additional excise tax increases - and an even greater increase for roll-your-own tobacco, because its harm per cigarette is as great as that of factory-rolled cigarettes, despite being thinner and consequently incurring less excise tax.

* 60 per cent in a survey supported a ban on retail tobacco displays.
* 96 per cent supported a ban on smoking in cars with preschool children.
* 59 per cent conditionally supported an increase in tobacco tax.

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