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Butt out wherever you are: push for world’s toughest smoking ban

Jason Dowling
Published: January 30, 2013 – 3:00AM

SMOKING would be banned in all public spaces in the City of Melbourne, including Bourke Street, City Square and even footpaths, under a radical proposal to make the city healthier and more attractive to visitors while reducing ambiguity for smokers.

The move would make smoking bans in Melbourne some of the toughest in the world.

The ban is being pushed by newly elected councillor Richard Foster, who said reducing the impact of smoking was an important cause for a progressive city such as Melbourne.

”I will very shortly be calling for a complete smoking ban across Melbourne,” Councillor Foster said.

”The ban would extend to any public place that could in no way be considered a private place, so basically anything that is not private land, so that would include alfresco dining areas, outside office blocks, anything like that,” he said.

There had been enough ”tinkering” with laws around smoking. ”We have extended [no-smoking] boundaries around play areas, we have extended boundaries around childcare centres and hospitals, it is about time that we actually made it simpler for smokers and healthier for everybody else … just ban it outright and be done with it,” he said.

The idea already had some support among other Melbourne City councillors. A briefing on smoking ban options would be held for council staff next month.

Cr Foster is hoping to have a trial of the public smoking ban introduced as early as March.

”There are no shortage of complaints about smoke being in the wrong places and interrupting the healthy lives of non-smokers, so that has got to drive something like this,” he said.

”It is really just in the interest in the 80 per cent-plus of us that don’t smoke.”

He said he favoured the Baillieu government extending the public-area smoking ban across the state.

Cr Foster said he was not

expecting a legal challenge to the proposed ban.

”There will be some resistance from some quarters, of course, but by and large I think it has very strong support,” he said.

”There have been surveys done in other council areas indicating wide-ranging support for measures like this, it is just that nobody has gone so far.

”It is about time a large city did.”

Cr Foster said the public smoking ban could help traders in the city.

”This could actually be a real boon for retailers in Melbourne, to be the only place in Victoria, indeed in Australia, where you are far less likely to encounter cigarette smoking when you go do your shopping.”

Quit Victoria, Cancer Council Victoria, the Heart Foundation (Victoria) and AMA Victoria have called for a statewide ban on smoking in outdoor dining and drinking areas.

They also want statewide smoking bans near children’s play equipment, the entrance to public buildings, public transport stops, sporting grounds, patrolled beaches between the flags, pedestrian malls and public events such as music festivals.

The acting chief executive of the Heart Foundation Victoria, Kellie-Ann Jolly, said: ”The proposal to ban smoking in public areas within the City of Melbourne is a step in the right direction for the health of not just Victorians, but the many visitors, both interstate and international, to Melbourne.

”We think councillors and local governments like City of Melbourne should be supported by state legislation to enforce smoking bans in public areas.

”Heart Foundation Victoria along with Quit, Cancer Council Victoria and the Australian Medical Association Victoria have been working together to lobby the state government to adopt legislation to ban smoking in outdoor dining and drinking areas. We’re hoping this latest push by Cr Richard Foster will help convince them to adopt a new law.”

Quit Victoria manager of tobacco policy Kylie Lindorff said a total ban on smoking in public places was not on its agenda at this stage.

”The main reason is because we think it would be difficult to enforce,” she said.

Ms Lindorff said smoking bans in outdoor dining and drinking areas was Quit Victoria’s priority.

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