New South Wales’ new tobacco law, introduced last week, makes it illegal to smoke at or within four metres of any outdoor dining area. Any smoker seen breaching the law will face an on the spot fine of $300 and venues could be subject to penalties of up to $5500. The main reasoning behind the new law is to combat the detrimental health effects of passive smoking.
Second-hand smoke (SHS) is the combination of exhaled smoke and sidestream smoke from a cigarette. Passively breathing in this smoke is proven to increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrom, middle ear disease, asthma, respiratory illnesses, lung cancer and coronary heart disease. It is a particular health risk for young children and pregnant women.
Several leading Australian health authorities have confirmed second-hand smoke as a cause of lung cancer in humans. Exposure to second-hand smoke can also irritate the eyes, nose, throat and lungs and it can worsen the symptoms of bronchitis or asthma.
While the health risks of second-hand smoke are far more severe when regularly passive smoking, for example, if your partner smokes, concerns still remain at public places.
In NSW, under the Smoke-free environment Act 2000, smoking is banned in all enclosed public places and certain outdoor public areas. Smoking is prohibited within 10 metres or children’s play equipment, at public swimming pools and spectator areas, at public transport stops and platforms and within four metres of a pedestrian access point to a public building.
Sydney smoker, Grace, believes that outdoor dining areas as the recent addition to this list of smoking bans doesn’t surprise her but she is not convinced of the effectiveness of the new law.
“I think it’s annoying. I understand that people don’t like having smoke blown in their face. I understand why it’s happening and why people would support it, it just feels like a tokenistic gesture because it’s not actually stopping people from smoking.”
Grace said she, like most other smokers is aware of the health risks of smoking and tries to remain aware of others around her when she is smoking.
“I’m always especially conscious of kids or babies if I’m on the street and it’s quiet. If I see a kid I’ll make a conscious effort to move away of make sure the cigarette is not near them. And I try not to smoke in busy areas in the city.”
“Maybe I’m just ignorant but I’ve never gotten a sense when I’m outside smoking that people feel particularly bothered by it. You just need to show basic consideration I think, in the same way you would with anything. You need to be aware of the people around you…it’s just a matter of basic etiquette.”
Grace believes these new laws are not the most effective measures as they don’t actually encourage people not to smoke.
“The thing that bothers me is that the government relies on so much money from taxing cigarette smokers and the fact that these measures aren’t for the health of smokers who’s health is suffering the worst – it’s not to stop anyone from smoking really – it’s just these tokenistic gestures to make it look like they’re doing something, when really I think if they cared that much about it they would just ban smoking. And I’m a smoker but I know it’s a pretty bad thing. For me to just keeping banning areas where people can smoke it’s just forcing people to chain smoke in the gardens.”
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