Around 7000 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.
The vast majority of fines were issued to people smoking within four metres of entrances to public buildings and at 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.
Between May and October this year, NSW Health undertook a state-wide ‘smoking hot spots’ focus which took in visits to 1,107 sites across NSW through all its Local Health Districts. There have been 205 fines and 495 cautions issued under the Smoke-free Environment Act from the start of May until the end of October.
NSW Health Director of the Centre for Population Health, Dr Jo Mitchell, said NSW Health inspectors reported over 98 per cent compliance with the smoke-free legislation had been observed during the hot spots focus, with 703 people smoking in areas where it is prohibited out of around 37,330 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.”
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.
“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. From 6 July 2015 it will be against the law to smoke in a seated commercial outdoor dining area while food is being served. A public notice campaign about smoke-free outdoor dining will run in 2015.
For further information regarding NSW Health smoke-free legislation, including smoke-free outdoor dining, please call the Tobacco Information Line on 1800 357 412 or visit www.health.nsw.gov.au/smoke-free
If people think a smoking ban has been broken, they can help direct enforcement and education efforts by letting NSW Health know at www.health.nsw.gov.au/smokefree
For information on how to quit smoking, visit www.iCanQuit.com.au
or ring the Quitline on 13 78 48.