Australia is apparently eager to become home of the strictest anti-smoking rules across the globe. The local health officials keep proposing regulations and restrictions like various bans and tax increases to crack down the tobacco consumption throughout the country.
In conformity with the new legislation introduced by Australian Capital Territory (where the Capital City Canberra and the largest city Sydney are located), lighting up will be banned in any outdoor public eating or drinking facility.
The legislation will oblige smokers to puff at least within two meters (6.5 feet) away from the public venues, otherwise they will be fined.
The bill – similar to the legislations passed in Queensland and Tasmania is intended for guaranteeing tobacco-free workplaces for restaurant and bar personnel, the ACT Health Minister’s spokesman admitted.
However, Katy Gallagher, the ACT Public Health Minister said that although it is clear that those businesses would be hurt, the legislation should be approved. According to the proposal, any outside section of a venue where meals or beverages are served should be totally smoke-free, without any exemptions, with bars, restaurants, cafes, and pubs - not the private cigar clubs – subjected to hefty fines for noncompliance.
The Health Minister admitted she was sure that the bill would be opposed by the business owners; however, remained confident that no-one should be exposed to environmental tobacco smoke while at work. She said that it is not fair that all the workplaces in the country have become smoke-free and only restaurants personnel is still exposed to smoke because the government provided a loophole for the owners.
Responding to the question concerning the violation of smokers’ rights, she declared that the proposed bill has been a rather «balancing act”, as the similar measures in other Australian states are successfully working, because if the smokers want to smoke despite all the efforts, it is their own decision, but they should do it in such a manner, that nobody else would be hurt by the smoke, she said.
She added that the local government also is considering such measures as banning puffing in cars in presence of adolescents and at outdoor teenage events.
However, the business owners complain that in reality the ban would outlaw outdoor venues they have designated to accommodate smokers when the smoking sections were prohibited under the Indoor Smoking Act and hurt their businesses significantly.
They point out at lack of evidence proving that outdoor smoking is also hazardous for non-smokers.
But the health minister remained definite about the necessity of the ban, saying that the ban would help reducing the hazardous consequences of secondhand smoke.
If approved by the government, the ban would enter into effect in December 2010.