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Bans on smoking provide a breath of fresh air

Tuesday 4 March, 2014 by Shannon

Remember the days when smoking was allowed in pubs and clubs? When a night out left you gasping for fresh air?

I was reminded of those days during a holiday to Berlin, where revellers are free to puff away inside bars, pubs and clubs.

I remembered how unpleasant it is to be in a hazy room with smokers.

The smoke makes it difficult to breathe. It burns your eyes, scratches at the back of your throat and makes your hair and clothes reek like those of a pack-a-day smoker.

But the real need for smoking laws goes much deeper than that.

In adults, second-hand smoke (or passive smoking) causes lung cancer and heart disease. It has also been linked to other conditions and diseases, including cancers of the nasal sinus, throat and voice box, stroke, breast cancer, development of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The U.S Surgeon General has advised that even brief exposure to second-hand smoke can cause acute cardiac events, asthma and other respiratory conditions.

It's been great to come back to Melbourne, where I can walk into a pub without choking on other people's smoke.

Outside in the beer garden or al fresco dining area, however, it's a different story.

The Victorian Government has taken positive steps to reduce the community's exposure to second-hand smoke by banning smoking at playgrounds, public pools, children's sporting events, skate parks, uncovered areas of public transport stops and beaches.

But when it comes to outdoor dining and drinking areas, the state government has failed to act.

Leading health groups including Cancer Council Victoria, Heart Foundation Victoria and AMA Victoria have for several years been pushing for these areas to be smokefree too, but Victoria remains the only state in Australia that has not introduced or committed to introducing such laws.

Still not convinced? Consider this:

  • 86% of Victorians are not regular smokers
  • 8 out of 10 Victorians support a ban on smoking in outdoor dining and drinking areas
  • A review of Queensland's smokefree outdoor dining laws found that the bans prompted one in four smokers to make a quit attempt
  • Victoria's current smokefree laws don't protect hospitality workers or patrons because outdoor areas can be up to 75% enclosed
  • According to the U.S Surgeon General, even brief exposure to second-hand smoke can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and acute cardiac events.

The health benefits and huge amount of support for tougher smoking laws can't be ignored.

I'm looking forward to the days when we no longer have to stomach second-hand smoke with our food and drinks.

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