Smokers will have no excuse for lighting up in designated smoke-free outdoor areas, with a new warning campaign to be unveiled across the state today to reinforce smoke-free bans introduced in 2013.
Dr Jo Mitchell, Director for the NSW Centre for Population Health, said that people smoking at bus, rail, ferry and taxi stops and at sporting grounds during games will be targeted via the radio and outdoor education campaign and authorised enforcement inspectors.
“Since January 2013 NSW Health has taken a largely educative approach to making various outdoor public areas smoke-free.”
“We believe smokers should now be aware of the changes brought into effect last year. As a result, as well as reminding smokers via our campaign, we are now strengthening enforcement of these bans.”
From today authorised inspectors in NSW will target known hotspot areas and issue fines to those who smoke where they are not allowed to.
“We are putting smokers on notice: compliance inspectors will be out there and they will be enforcing the bans,” Dr Mitchell said.
“We understand giving up smoking is hard. But where and when you smoke is a choice. Our campaign and compliance monitoring is aimed at protecting non-smokers from the dangerous effects of second-hand cigarette smoke.”
There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke and it causes a range of serious health problems, especially in children. These laws are in place to protect people from second hand smoke in places where people congregate.
NSW Health’s overall goal is to increase compliance with the Smoke-free Environment Act 2000 which was amended by the NSW Parliament in 2012.
“There is no single way to achieve compliance. We will address it in three ways - through education, compliance monitoring and when necessary, enforcement.”
Tobacco remains the single biggest most preventable cause of ill health and death in Australia. The health impacts are estimated to cost the NSW Government $8 billion annually.
“Globally, 70,000 scientific studies now document the adverse impact of smoking on the health of smokers and non-smokers. The impacts on your health from smoking are dire. More than 5300 people in NSW die every year from smoking related illness, 46,000 are hospitalised.” Dr Mitchell said.
Along with health implications, smoking in legally prohibited areas could also prove costly financially.
In addition to educating people about the legislation and providing cautions, Authorised inspectors have the power to issue on the spot fines of $300 to people who ignore the bans.
The Tobacco Strategy 2012-2017 provides a clear outline of the intended direction of NSW Health in reaching its 2021 target to reduce smoking and limit second hand exposure to smoke.
“We’ve come a long way in 20 years, since people were allowed to smoke in offices, on international flights and beside children in public parks.”
“Our education campaigns are working. We know the anti-smoking message is getting through” Dr Mitchell said.
The 2013 NSW Population Health Survey shows that 16.4% of adults in NSW smoke compared to 22.5% in 2002.
“This is a sign that people understand the dangers of smoking. In the last few years we’ve regulated the sale, display and advertising of tobacco products. In addition we’ve banned smoking in enclosed public places and introduced bans in some public outdoor settings – all decisions now widely accepted by smokers in NSW.”
The NSW Government’s continued work in compliance and education will pave the way for the introduction of smoke-free outdoor dining in mid-2015.
“There is still a lot of work to do to, but we have a foundation and clear plans for what we want to achieve” Dr Mitchell said.
Information on the NSW Public Notice Campaign can be found at www.health.nsw.gov.au/smokefree