A total of 5,178 smokers across NSW have been fined for lighting up in designated smoke-free areas since January 2013, according to figures released today by NSW Health and Transport for NSW.
The vast majority of fines were issued to people smoking in public transport settings such as bus stops and train station platforms.
NSW Health inspectors can issue infringement notices (on the spot fines) at a range of public outdoor areas under the Smoke-free Environment Act 2000. NSW Police Officers can also issue fines for smoking at transport stops under the Passenger Transport Regulation 2007 and the Smoke-free Environment Act 2000. An on the spot fine of $300 applies to anyone who fails to comply.
Starting in May this year, NSW Health has been undertaking a state-wide ‘smoking hot spots’ blitz which has so far taken in visits to 467 sites across NSW throughout 11 Local Health Districts, including Western Sydney, Western NSW, Sydney, South Eastern Sydney, Northern Sydney, Nepean Blue Mountains, Mid North Coast, Hunter New England, Central Coast, Illawarra Shoalhaven and South Western Sydney.
Since the smoking hot spots blitz began, 78 fines and 235 cautions were issued under the Smoke-free Environment Act 2000 in May and June.
NSW Health Director of the Centre for Population Health, Dr Jo Mitchell, said NSW Health inspectors reported 98 per cent compliance with the smoke-free legislation had been observed during the hot spots focus, with 259 people smoking in areas where it is prohibited out of around 13,400 people observed at these sites.
“Most people want to do the right thing. When they are made aware of the legislation they put out their cigarette and move on,” Dr Mitchell said.
“We are targeting our education and enforcement activity to those areas where compliance is lower, such as some train stations, bus shelters and entrances to public buildings,. This includes working with local councils and other building owners to put up ‘No Smoking’ signage.
“Compliance rates and awareness of the legislation are high thanks to a recent public notice campaign run by NSW Health and the support of campaign partners including Transport for NSW, State Transit Authority, Local Government NSW, Taxi Council NSW, Heart Foundation NSW, Destination NSW, Cancer Council NSW, NSW Local Health Districts, Football NSW, Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW and community organisations across NSW.
“It is estimated that 73 per cent of NSW adults aged 18 years or over saw or heard the campaign message at least once whether through radio, Facebook, or bus shelter advertising.”
Dr Mitchell said NSW Health would continue to focus on areas where there is lower compliance with smoking bans, such as some train stations, public buildings and bus shelters.
“We understand giving up smoking is hard. But where and when you smoke is a choice. Public transport platforms often attract large numbers of people and commuters have limited opportunity to avoid second-hand tobacco smoke in these areas,” she said.
“There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke. Creating smoke-free outdoor areas can also support those who have quit and trying to quit.”
The 2013 NSW Population Health Survey shows that 16.4 per cent of adults in NSW smoke compared to 22.5 per cent 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,” Dr Mitchell said.
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.
For information on how to quit smoking, visit iCanQuit
or ring the Quitline on 13 78 48.