Extending smoking bans must be carefully considered

THE fact that smoking is bad for you is indisputable.Figures showing the high number of smoking-related diseases and deaths should be enough to jolt anyone into giving up the habit.Combine this with all the shock-tactic adverts in the media in recent years, and the anti-smoking campaign seems to be doing its job of scaring many current smokers into quitting and deterring others from taking it up. But one has to question whether banning smoking from outdoor dining areas is fair or in breach of a person’s civil rights.Pressure is growing for Victoria to outlaw smoking in outdoor dining areas after the New South Wales Government this week announced a ban from 2015, which will also includes banning smoking in all playgrounds, sports grounds and swimming pools.Victoria and South Australia are the only states not to implement smoking bans. While similar bans in Victoria are being assessed, no commitment has been made by the state government.Currently there are some bans on outdoor dining areas, but only on a council-by-council basis. In response to a call for an end to confusion, the Municipal Association of Victoria has called for uniform laws to eliminate confusion.The MAV, which represents local councils, is expected to meet Health Minister David Davis in coming weeks to discuss the smoking ban issue. Ballarat City Council has backed a ban, but stressed such a move needed state government support. Mayor Mark Harris said a better way forward was a blanket ban on smoking in areas where people were consuming food.And Quit Victoria executive director Fiona Sharkie has called for a smoking ban in outdoor dining areas and further restrictions on lighting up in outside drinking venues, such as beer gardens. Outdoor dining areas and beer gardens at many clubs and pubs were created so smokers wouldn’t indulge their habits at indoor eateries. If these bans are implemented, where are smokers to go?While socially unacceptable, smoking is currently not an illegal habit. Smoking is a habit which should not be indulged around children, and the introduction of laws in recent years banning smoking in cars when children are passengers should be applauded. However, a blanket ban on smokers indulging in their habit while outside – away from other people –needs to be stringently assessed.