State Government to take responsibility for outdoor smoking laws

Health groups said today that it was time for the State Government to take responsibility for banning smoking in key outdoor areas after a Heart Foundation survey found that 50% of all NSW councils now have some form of smoke-free outdoor areas policy.

The Heart Foundation, Cancer Council NSW and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) are calling for state-wide legislation to make all alfresco dining venues and other crowded outdoor areas smoke-free.

At a minimum, this would include any outdoor areas where food or drink is served, children’s playgrounds as well as sporting grounds and facilities. The call comes on the 10th anniversary of the Smoke Free Environment Act NSW, which restricts smoking in a wide range of enclosed public places.

“We’ve now reached a tipping point where 50% of councils have taken this positive step to protect their residents from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke, but the reality of course is that policy varies from council to council,” said Tony Thirlwell, Heart Foundation CEO – NSW.

“It’s therefore high time that the State Government takes on this issue and ensures that we have a consistent approach right across New South Wales that reduces exposure to toxic cigarette smoke,” Mr Thirlwell added.

As of 31 July 2010, 76 of the 152 NSW councils have adopted some form of smoke-free outdoor areas policy, including 74% of Sydney metropolitan councils and two fifths of regional/rural councils. Twenty-eight councils had policy in 2007.

“The local council leadership we’ve seen around this issue is to be applauded, but it leaves communities without uniform protection. Everyone should be protected from second-hand smoke no matter where they are in NSW,” said, Anita Tang, Manager Policy and Advocacy, Cancer Council NSW.

In Queensland, children’s playgrounds and sporting fields have been smoke-free since January 2005 and outdoor eating and drinking venues have been smoke-free since July 2006.

Says ASH CEO Anne Jones: “On the 10th anniversary of the Smoke Free Environment Act NSW, it’s time for this state to catch up with other states and make all crowded public areas smoke-free – starting with protecting children, and staff in their workplaces.”

The Local Government and Shires Associations of NSW are supporting calls for State Government assistance.
“Local Government prides itself on building healthy communities, but is sometimes restricted due to a lack of funds. We really need the NSW Government to step in and help those councils that choose to implement smoke free outdoor area policies,” says President of the Local Government Association of NSW Cr Genia McCaffery, and President of the Shires Association of NSW Cr Bruce Miller.

To view the full Heart Foundation survey report including details of each council’s policy, Heart Foundation survey of NSW councils was conducted between April and July 2010.

Media Contact:

Cancer Council –  Luke Alexander (02) 9334 1878 / 0413 886 578
Heart Foundation –  Kerry Kalcher 0401 672 128 / 02 9219 2433