BALLARAT’S smoking rates are still much higher than the state average of 13.3 per cent.
Ballarat Community Health chief executive officer Robyn Reeves yesterday said the rate was hovering between 17 and 20 per cent, depending on the age group.
Last October, the Grampians region was also revealed as having the highest adult daily smoking rate in Australia, at 28 per cent.
However, Ms Reeves said it was hoped a new law introduced today banning smoking from outdoor recreational areas would be beneficial in reducing smoking in the Ballarat and Grampians region.
“It has enormous benefits to protect children, both through reducing second-hand smoke and de-normalising smoking behaviour,” Ms Reeves said.
“It’s more unacceptable behaviour when it’s quite unusual.”
She said that although smoking rates had fallen across Victoria from 21.2 per cent in 1998, smokers in Ballarat and the Grampians region were lagging behind.
“We also have a lower median life expectancy and higher rates of cancer, and lifestyle factors, like smoking, contribute to this.”
The new laws ban smoking within 10 metres of outdoor public playgrounds, skate parks, swimming pools and sporting venues during underage sporting events.
People who smoke in a smoke-free area could face a $144 fine.
Health Minister David Davis said the law was aimed at protecting children from tobacco-related harm.
“We invest millions each year to support quit-smoking programs, anti-smoking advertising, education and enforcement activities,” Mr Davis said.
“Smoking rates have fallen to a record low.”