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COUNCILS, sporting clubs, public-event organisers and businesses will start imposing bans on smoking in outdoor areas within three weeks.

Health Minister John Hill said the power to ban smoking in any public area would take effect on May 31 and he predicted some strongly anti-smoking councils and private organisations would act immediately.

“I think trail-blazing organisations will act almost immediately and others will follow,” he said. “It will be parks, streets, music festivals, sporting events, outside private hospitals, beaches, pageants, anywhere they like and I think councils like Unley, who are very keen, will act quickly.”

Mr Hill said the new powers would be similar to the anti-drinking “dry zone” powers; areas able to be proclaimed as non-smoking by councils and private organisations after public consultation.

Smoking in children’s playgrounds and public transport shelters is automatically banned and will be subject to a $200 fine.

Mr Hill was speaking after the Australian Medical Association called for bans on smoking in any outdoor area where people gathered in numbers, including sporting events, busy pedestrian street crossings and streets which had outdoor dining such as Hutt and Rundle streets in the central business districts.

“Smoking should be banned in outdoor areas where there are public gatherings, altogether,” AMA SA president Dr Peter Sharley said.

“There is evidence that second-hand smoking is linked to cancer, heart disease and respiratory problems.”

Dr Sharley said smoking cost Australia $31 billion each year and killed 15,000 people.

He said it would be difficult to police such bans but believed many people would do the right thing if public warnings were posted.

The AMA called for funding to implement the bans in its submission to the State Budget.

Mr Hill said the Government would not force groups to enact the new laws, except in areas such as playgrounds.

“It will not be compulsory but I think citizens will start insisting especially that councils stop people smoking in some areas, and I think that is a good way of spreading it throughout the community,” Mr Hill said.

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