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Diners hungry for smoking ban

Thursday 25 February, 2016 by Olivia Kostandinov

For many Victorians, trying the newest restaurant, café or bar is a regular pastime.

But there's something holding back many foodies and families from dining out more often – they don't want their mouth-watering meal or beverage served with a side of smoke if they want to sit outside.

Thankfully this will soon change, when outdoor dining areas become smokefree across Victoria from August 2017.

This is great news for food lovers, with research from Cancer Council Victoria showing that 22% of Victorians say they will visit cafes and restaurants more often if outdoor areas were smokefree. Only 5% said they would visit less often.

There is, however, one appetizer that Victorian's don't want left off the menu – smokefree outdoor drinking.

Whether you are meeting your mates for a bev after work or catching up over a coffee, patrons and hospitality workers should be protected from secondhand smoke. Even brief exposure to second-hand smoke can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and acute cardiac events as well as breathing problems.

Smokefree areas also have the added bonus of helping people to stop smoking and removing the role modelling of smoking behaviours to young people. This is important because we know that the more likely young people are to see smoking, the more likely they are to see it as a normal behaviour and something they'd like to take up themselves.

Quit Victoria and other public health groups are urging the State Government to make both outdoor dining AND drinking areas smokefree - as has been the case in Queensland for the past decade.

In a practical compromise, the Queensland model allows smoking within designated outdoor smoking areas of pub and clubs, where no food or drink is served, and which is separated from the rest of the outdoor space. This means patrons can eat and drink without cigarette smoke and the people who serve them the food and drink have a safe, smokefree workplace.

New South Wales, on the other hand, adopted smokefree laws covering only outdoor dining areas last July. Since its inception, the ban has raised more questions than it does answers, with many divided over what constitutes dining, ie: Does a pack of chips count? What about soup?

And no matter what we define as dining or not, the reality is that cigarette smoke is unpleasant and dangerous for patrons and hospitality staff whether they are drinking coffee or eating a piece of toast. Only smokefree laws that cover outdoor dining AND drinking areas will provide protection from secondhand smoke.

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