SMOKING would be barred at NSW football matches and throughout playgrounds under widespread bans unveiled yesterday.
NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner said smoking would soon be outlawed in playgrounds, public sports-grounds, swimming pools, public transport stops, such as taxi ranks, and entrances to public buildings.
Smoking will also be banned in commercial outdoor dining areas from 2015, which covers restaurants, hotels and licensed clubs.
Albury mayor Alice Glachan welcomed the move which
follows individual councils having introduced similar bans.
“It’s fantastic because clearly the health and welfare of our community needs to be put above the individual preference of those who like to smoke,” Cr Glachan said.
Fines for defying the bans are expected to be similar to the existing $550 penalty for smoking in outlawed enclosed areas.
Smoking is already banned at the Albury and Lavington swimming pools, however it would be a first for playgrounds and NSW Ovens and Murray venues, which include Albury Sportsground, Lavington Oval, Bunton Park, North Albury, and Corowa’s John Foord Oval.
Ovens and Murray Football League general manager Tom O’Connor said such a ban had not been “on the radar” for his organisation.
“We will fall into line with the legislation as to what’s in force, but at this stage we’ll be interested to know more information about it and the implementation,” Mr O’Connor said.
“We are about healthy lifestyles and people being active in sport but we don’t wish to put up barriers for people attending sport.”
Smoking would continue to be allowed in designated areas of pubs where meals are not served.
On the Border, the regulations are likely to be enforced by two environmental health officers, who are employed by the NSW Government and are already based in Albury doing inspections of restaurant conditions.
Member for Albury Greg Aplin, who has been lobbied by the Cancer Council to have tougher tobacco bans, hinted there could be fine-tuning in the legislation which may allow for smoking areas at sporting grounds.
He expected the changes would “meet with general support but we do have to recognise that people who are smokers are still part of society and they are going to continue smoking”.
“So while Jillian’s strategy is a good one and a healthy one with long-term advantages, there will have to be some means of acknowledging that fact,” Mr Aplin said.
Cr Glachan was keen for the legislation to be enacted as soon as possible.
Mrs Skinner said her decision had been prompted by the devastation wrought by smoking-related illnesses that cost NSW $8?billion annually and accounted for about 5200 deaths and 44,000 hospital stays.
“The distress and cost that smoking inflicts on families, and the burden this imposes on NSW’s health system, is simply not acceptable,” she said.
Mrs Skinner said the three-year delay for the ban on smoking in alfresco dining areas was designed to honour a memorandum of understanding signed with clubs before last year’s election.
“The reason we delayed it was to provide an even playing field for pubs and restaurants,” she said.
Smoking in outdoor dining areas was a major source of complaints, Mrs Skinner said.
“People don’t like putting food in their mouths with smoke in the air, and this is something we are acknowledging.”
Cancer Council NSW chief Dr Andrew Penman applauded the reforms and is pragmatic about the three-year delay.
“I think the important thing is to move forwards,” Dr Penman said.