Hobart set to extend smoke-free zones, with councillor aiming for full city ban

Updated April 09, 2019 18:50:32

More areas of Hobart look set to become smoke-free zones after a council move to extend bans around the city passed its first hurdle.

The Hobart City Council’s planning committee has recommended increasing the size of the banned areas in the CBD, and is expecting its recommendation will be accepted at a council meeting next week.

Tasmania has the second highest rate of smoking in Australia behind the Northern Territory, with an estimated 70,500 people from a population of just over 500,000 puffing and vaping.

The councillor behind the push, Helen Burnet, said her personal view was that the entire city should eventually become totally smoke and vape-free zones.

“To ban smoking outright perhaps is the end goal, but at the moment it takes officers to enforce the message, to educate people and to reinforce what we are trying to do,” the Deputy Lord Mayor said.

So what’s proposed?

Hobart already has a number of smoke-free zones including Salamanca Square, Elizabeth Street Mall and the nearby bus mall.

The planning committee has unanimously recommended that current smoke-free areas be extended to include Collins, Liverpool, Murray and Argyle streets, as well as the area in front of the Royal Hobart Hospital’s Liverpool Street entrance, where it’s not an uncommon sight to see a cluster of smokers near the main entrance.

Franklin Square will also become a smoke-free zone, as will the newly opened community hub near the Soldier’s Memorial and the Liverpool Street Rose Garden.

There is also Tasmanian Government to increase the smoke-free zones around its buildings around the state from 3 to 5 metres.

Will there be a penalty?

The details are yet to be worked out, but Cr Burnet said it was likely smokers would be hit with an infringement notice and fine.

“Sometimes it’s quite difficult to fine people who smoke … but the main things is to ensure that people know that they should not be smoking in this area and to move them on,” she said.

“There will be a fine associated with this, but it is the work beforehand that people are educated around smoke-free areas.”

Policing is likely be the responsibility of environmental health council officers, but Cr Burnet said she envisaged there would be a slew of new, prominent signs to warn of the no-go zones.

“The main thing is making something smoke-free is to put the signage and make sure that people are aware so they don’t step foul of the law, so it’s about ensuring that people respect the amenity of this place,” she said.

Is Hobart doing enough?

Hobart is not leading the way but neither is it the worst-performing jurisdiction, Councillor Burnet said, adding other city councils interstate had introduced similar bans across malls and areas of heavy pedestrian traffic.

“This is a step in the right direction if the council decides to make this move,” Cr Burnet said.

“There are other councils, particularly in New South Wales, where there is quite a lot of work that has already been done but we should be proud of the area that have been smoke-free [in Hobart] and build on those.”

Quit Tasmania welcomed the council’s push, but said Tasmania as a whole was not meeting targets for people to quit, and that it was costing an estimated $466 million a year.

“Tasmania is a leader in tobacco control in terms of legislation and regulation, investment and social marketing campaigns and expansion of smoke-free areas which is really exciting,” director Abby Smith said.

“[But] we’re actually lagging behind the rest of the country, we know that two in three long-term smokers die of smoking-related disease or illness.”

What are people saying?

For Cr Burnet the motivation to see more areas smoke-free is also personal, after having a young relative die of cancer.

“The council is building on work that we did almost 10 years ago to improve the health and wellbeing and the pleasant nature of city streets and our parks,” she said,

“Why shouldn’t we?”

She said the council was acting on community requests.

“So many people realise how bad smoking is and if we can do our bit as a council to improve the amenity of streets and parks and have a positive health message, it is a step in the right direction.”

Hobart smoker Susan McKnight said the ban would not stop her, and she would merely move to nearby streets outside the ban area.

“If I’m standing off to one side, leave me be, walk around me and don’t bother me,” she said.

“We are being made to feel like lepers. What’s the difference between having a cigarette, putting it out in the bin and people spitting all over the pavement?

“To me that’s far worse than someone having a cigarette.

“I can understand not smoking in cafes and workplaces. It’s still a legal thing to do, the government gets so much money from us cigarette smokers. It would just be nice to have somewhere to go to have a cigarette and not be victimised.”

Sigmund Zoltz-Nikolai agreed it would not stop people from smoking.

“It’s a bit unfair considering the amount of tax we pay on cigarettes,” he said.

“I don’t think its going to make too much of a difference, people are still going to smoke on the street where they’re not allowed.

“I see it time and time again even in places where they already have banned smoking so good luck to ’em is all I have to say.”

The full council will decide next Monday if the luck of smokers is about to run out.

Topics: smoking, health, heart-disease, respiratory-diseases, diseases-and-disorders, health-policy, healthcare-facilities, local-government, tas, hobart-7000, launceston-7250

First posted April 09, 2019 18:21:26

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