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Nothing Passive About New Smoking Laws

By Evonne Collier on September 1, 2015 in News

Photo: Philip Morris

Photo: Philip Morris

It’s been two months since smokers were told to ‘butt out’ from commercial outdoor dining venues, thanks to the latest round of smoke-free legislation introduced by NSW Health aimed at reducing dangerous secondhand smoke.

In 2013, smoking was banned at public transport stops/stations, sports fields, public swimming pools, within four metres of public building entrances and within ten metres of children’s playgrounds. The latest changes put into place on July 6 mean you’ll be asked to move at least four metres away from an outdoor dining area of a restaurant, cafe or licensed venue to get your nicotine hit.

NSW HealthStats shows that 14% of South Eastern Sydney residents continue to smoke, which is below the NSW average of 16%.

The NSW Cancer Council cites research that non-smokers who have been exposed to secondhand smoke have a 31% greater risk of lung cancer than other non-smokers.

The South Eastern Sydney Public Health Unit Director, Professor Mark Ferson, said there are no safe levels of exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke.

“Research has shown individuals in typical public outdoor dining areas may be exposed to high levels of secondhand smoke,” Prof Ferson said.

“Creating smoke-free areas reduces exposure to secondhand smoke and can support those who have quit or are trying to quit. It also makes smoking less visible to children and young people.”

And it seems smokers are aware of their habits’ impact. Research conducted by Cancer Institute NSW shows 73% of smokers agree that their smoking affects the health of those around them and 82% understand their secondhand smoke is harmful.

NSW Health surveys show that four out of five people (smokers and non-smokers) support a smoking ban in commercial outdoor areas and the organisation has been working hard with local businesses to make sure they are aware of the laws and provided with appropriate support (e.g. signage). The surveys show that most hospitality businesses across NSW were already smoke-free in response to consumer demand, and that this has been good for business.

On-the-spot fines will be served to individuals ($300) and business owners (up to $5,500) found breaking these laws. NSW Health said there are currently nine health inspectors who monitor compliance and enforce laws in the Eastern Suburbs, plus there are online complaint forms for the public to notify of any breaches.

Another consideration of the new laws is where people will extinguish their cigarettes. David Imrie, CEO of Keep NSW Beautiful, noted that cigarette butts are a serious issue in tackling litter and make up close to half the number of items in the litter stream.

“We’re concerned that butt litter could increase if the new legislation prevents smokers from having easy access to ashtrays, previously provided in outdoor areas where smoking was permitted,” Mr Imrie said.

If smokers are required to go out to the street to have a cigarette, Mr Imrie asked that they do the right thing and find a bin to dispose of their cigarette butts responsibly, even if it is less convenient.