Calls for total smoking bans in outdoor areas of pubs, cafes

There are calls for smoking to be banned in all outdoor drinking areas in Victoria. From August 2017, smoking will be banned in outdoor areas where food is served, under a government proposal. Photo: Justin McManus JZM
Nanjing Night Net

Victorian Government floats smoking rules for owners corporations 

Beer gardens and outdoor areas of cafes would become entirely smoke-free under a new Victorian proposal supported by more than a dozen leading health and community groups.

The government announced last year that smoking would be banned in outdoor venues where food is served from August 2017, with on-the-spot fines and a maximum penalty of $758 for people who break the law.

But the heads of 15 organisations including the Australian Medical Association, Cancer Council Victoria and the hospitality workers union, United Voice, say the new rules do not go far enough and could lead to bans on diners eating outside.

“The legislation will have the unintended consequence of effectively promoting alcohol consumption without food in outdoor areas where smoking is allowed.”

The groups said similar smoking laws recently passed in New South Wales had caused widespread confusion about what constitutes dining or snack food and that hospitality staff deserved to be protected from toxic smoke irrespective of whether they are serving a meal or a drink.

They called on the Andrews government to adopt stricter anti-smoking laws, such as those in Queensland, which prohibit smoking anywhere food and drink is served but still allow licenced venues to designate part of their outdoor areas for smoking.

Tony Bartone, president of AMA Victoria, said failing to ban smoking in outdoor drinking areas exposed hospitality workers to secondhand smoke, which can cause cancer, heart and lung disease, stroke, fertility problems and asthma.

“This is not just about smokers,” Dr Bartone said. “Tobacco laws have huge implications for hospitality workers’ health, as they spend a significant portion of their shift serving patrons and clearing empty glasses in smoke-filled areas.”

But some cafe, bar and restaurant owners fear further crackdowns on smoking will be bad for business. There are an estimated 22,000 businesses in Victoria that will be impacted by changes to smoking laws.

Restaurant and Caterers Association chief executive John Hart said the argument that hospitality staff were negatively impacted by second hand tobacco smoke in outdoor areas was “nonsense”.

“The staff are actually exposed to more negative impacts by working outdoors on the footpath from car exhaust and other pollution than they are from tobacco smoke,” he said. “I would challenge them to demonstrate how that is the case. There is no evidence of that and never has been.”

“We’ve supported a constructive ban on smoking in outdoor dining areas because that’s what some of the patrons want, but it’s got nothing to do with negative health impacts on either the customers outside, nor the staff outside.”

Mr Hart said businesses in Queensland were still feeling the effects of the stricter laws, but that the impact would be worse in Victoria.

“You don’t have the same elements of ethnic populations to the extent that you do in Victoria, you don’t have the cafe culture that we have in Victoria, it’s a very different market. You can’t compare the two.”

Smoking bans already exists at the entrances of many public buildings, at public transport stops, near playgrounds and at children’s sporting venues. About 4000 Victorians die every year from smoking-related disease.

A spokeswoman for Health Minister Jill Hennessy said there were “no current plans” to expand smoking bans to outdoor drinking areas.

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