A ban on smoking in outdoor dining areas, and within four metres of licensed premises, restaurants and cafes, came into effect in July, as the NSW Government continues to implement its Smoke-free Environment Act (2000).
Under the Act, smoking is already banned in outdoor public places, for example within 10 metres of children’s play equipment, swimming pools and spectator areas at sports grounds when organised sport is taking place. It is also prohibited at public transport stops and platforms, and within four metres of a pedestrian access point to a public building.
Smoke-free outdoor dining came into force from 6 July 2015.
The NSW smoke-free outdoor legislation was introduced in 2012 to help reduce the population’s exposure to second-hand smoke, to support people who have quit or are trying to quit, to make smoking less visible to children and young people, and to help ‘normalise’ smoke-free outdoor environments.
Edwina Macoun, from NSW Health’s Centre for Population Health, said the government adopted a staged approach to outdoor dining restrictions to give the public and business plenty of time to adjust. The ‘four metre law’ was delayed for licensed premises and restaurants so they could implement the smoke-free outdoor dining simultaneously.
Ms Macoun said research had shown that individuals in typical public outdoor dining areas, such as alfresco cafés, could be exposed to high levels of second-hand tobacco smoke. The growing recognition of the health effects of second-hand smoke, together with growing public dislike of cigarette smoke, had been key drivers of smoke-free legislation.
“Scientific research is unequivocal about the serious health effects of exposure to second-hand smoke,” she said. “It is well established that there is no safe level of exposure and that it causes a range of serious health problems in non-smokers. In adults, breathing second-hand tobacco smoke can increase the risk of coronary heart disease, lung cancer and other lung diseases. It can worsen the effects of other illnesses such as asthma and bronchitis.
“Children are particularly susceptible to health damage … due to their immature immune systems and their smaller airways, suffering a range of health problems including increased risk of asthma and sudden infant death syndrome.”
Deputy CEO of Restaurant and Catering Australia, Sally Neville, said the NSW industry was “very aware” of its obligations on the new outdoor smoking bans.
The industry had been given plenty of information and clear direction from the government on how to implement the ban, however there would be a transitional period while the public adjusted.
“The public like to eat without smoke, therefore we believe they will enforce it by advising the proprietors of breaches.”
Ms Macoun said smoke-free outdoor dining had been successfully implemented in a range of local councils across NSW before introduction of the bans. Manly Council introduced the policy for alfresco dining in 2004 and had since reported a marked increase in demand for outdoor dining spaces − despite a rise in council rents.
A combination of education, compliance monitoring and enforcement would be used to achieve compliance with the new restrictions, she said.