Council ready for law on new smoking bans

DUBBO ratepayers will save money and perhaps live longer and healthier lives when state enforcement of smoke-free outdoor public places starts next month.

Dubbo City Council's David Dwyer measuring a four-metre smoke-free zone at the entrance to Dubbo Regional Theatre and Convention Centre ahead of the introduction of new laws on January 7.      	 Photo: Belinda Soole

Dubbo City Council's David Dwyer measuring a four-metre smoke-free zone at the entrance to Dubbo Regional Theatre and Convention Centre ahead of the introduction of new laws on January 7. Photo: Belinda Soole

From January 7, smokers will risk fines of up to $550 if they light up at the entrance to shopping centres, hotels, schools and other prohibited areas.

The law that NSW Health officers will enforce will eclipse a well-intended but "reasonably toothless" non-smoking policy introduced by Dubbo City Council in 2005 for all its facilities.

It had been responsible for advertising the pioneering policy - a cost of about $10,000 to ratepayers - but now the duty will lie with the government department.

The savings are just one reason why council community services director David Dwyer has welcomed the imminent introduction of the reforms.

"Certainly in the long-term you pay less for smoking-related diseases, not just in smokers, but also passive smokers," Mr Dwyer said.

"Hopefully it will encourage people not to take up smoking, and they can use their money for something else like gym fees, private health insurance or kids' education."

The council and its counterparts across the state received notification of the amendments to the Smoke-free Environment Act 2000 last week.

In a letter, chief health officer Kerry Chant said the changes to the act would outlaw smoking at a number of public facilities including playgrounds, swimming pools, sports grounds and public transport stops and stations.

Some of those had already been the subject of council policy, but Mr Dwyer said the "big one" for everyone would be the ban on smoking within four metres of a pedestrian entrance to or exit from a public building.

There was a long list of types of buildings covered by the act and it was likely to have ramifications at Dubbo.

Mr Dwyer said the council would do a review, because the butt bins it provided at places like the theatre were probably not four metres away from the doors.

The downside of the council policy had been it needed signs to inform people, but with the advent of the law smokers would not be able to plead ignorance as an excuse, the director said.

"Our policy was reasonably toothless before, there were no penalties, but now there will be NSW Health officers who can fine people," Mr Dwyer said.

The non-smoking director anticipated the community would welcome the reforms.

"I think the government is supporting the vast majority of people who don't want to inhale the smoke of others," he said.

Under the amendments smoking will also be banned in commercial outdoor dining areas from 2015.

faye.wheeler@ruralpress.com