The NSW State Government recently announced amendments to the Smoke-free Environment Act 2000, which means you could* be slapped with a fine for smoking in areas like bus stops, taxi ranks, swimming pools and outdoor dining areas. NSW is the latest state (ACT and Qld already have some outside smoking bans in place). But do these new tobacco reforms infringe on your right to choose?
CEO Civil Liberties Australia
We don’t believe there’s necessarily a “right” to smoke, but everyone has a right to engage in civic life, to take part in lawful activities and to move freely without undue interference from police and bureaucrats. The risks of second-hand smoking aren’t apparent in the open yet.
In cities, there are many pollutants in the air, such as smog, petrol and diesel vapours and wood-fire smoke. These present a risk to lungs.
Smoking is, unquestionably, self-destructive. The evidence linking smoking to illness like cancer and heart disease is indisputable. Smokers are excluded from some areas where their unused and exhaled smoke – causing passive smoking – may compromise public health.
But some people simply find smoking unsightly, and others are angry at the rubbish left behind. If discarded butts annoy you, press the council to crack down on all rubbish (there are fines for that purpose); if you don’t like the sight of smoking, look away. Tobacco and nicotine remain legal, taxed by the Federal Government.
The taxes raised from smokers – more than $2 billion each year – help maintain the open areas that some people are trying to ban them from. If states want smoking banned, they should lobby the Federal Government to make selling tobacco illegal. Then there would be no double standards surrounding the whole smoking issue.
Professor Ian Olver
CEO Cancer Council Australia
Smoking is the largest single preventable cause of death, killing more than 15,000 Australians per year. It kills more people each year than the combined total of alcohol, drugs, murder, suicide, motor vehicle accidents, poisoning, drowning, electrocutions, fires, falls, snake bites and shark attacks.
The World Health Organization says that second-hand smoke is a health hazard and there are no safe levels of exposure. When smokers light up in a busy public place, they’re making more than an individual choice to smoke; they’re taking away the choice of non-smokers to enjoy public places without breathing second-hand smoke.
Second-hand smoke can cause lung cancer and heart disease. Non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing lung cancer by 20 to 30 per cent. Children exposed to second-hand smoke are at increased risk of a range of health problems including SIDS, bronchitis and pneumonia.
It’s no surprise that the Cancer Council advocates smoke-free areas. A smoke-free environment is the only way to protect non-smokers. The NSW legislation will cover smoke-free children’s playgrounds, sporting fields when sports are being played, bus shelters and taxi ranks, and from 2015, outdoor commercial eating areas. It’s a good step for NSW and will help reduce health issues linked to second-hand smoke.
* This still ha to be approved by parliament
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