National Drug Strategy
National Drug Strategy

National Tobacco Strategy 2012-2018: Draft for consultation

6.7 Reduce exceptions to smoke free workplaces, public places and other settings

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Exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) causes a range of serious adverse health effects in both adults and children.7

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reported on a scientific review of the effectiveness of smoke free policies in reducing population exposure to second-hand smoke.73 It determined that there is sufficient evidence to accept that laws restricting smoking in workplaces and other public places reduce population exposure to second-hand smoke and consumption of cigarettes, and respiratory symptoms in workers. Another study found that such policies provide net benefits to business, with no adverse affects on overall sales in the hospitality industry.74

Article 8 of the FCTC requires Parties to recognise that scientific evidence has unequivocally established that exposure to tobacco smoke causes death, disease and disability and to adopt and implement effective legislative, executive, administrative and/or other measures, providing for protection from exposure to tobacco smoke in indoor workplaces, public transport, indoor public places and, as appropriate, other public places.26

Evaluation studies of the implementation of smoke free legislation overwhelmingly report that the legislation is popular, compliance is high and the laws are effective in improving air quality and reducing exposure to ETS. A growing body of evidence suggests that these laws can have a broader impact on smoker behaviour particularly among young people.75-78

There is increasing evidence that smoke free legislation has an impact on initiation of smoking among young people and that the strength of smoke free restrictions in the legislation is a key factor influencing the uptake of smoking.78-81

Smoke free legislation can also influence exposure to ETS in domestic environments. Following the implementation of smoke free legislation in Scotland, there was an increase in the proportion of children reporting a complete ban on smoking in their household.82 A similar pattern was reported in Queensland following implementation of new smoke free laws in 2006.80 Smoke free policies at home can increase adults’ chances of quitting.81

Smoke free legislation is largely the responsibility of States and Territories. Under the previous National Tobacco Strategy there was a significant regulatory reform as State and Territory governments progressively introduced legislation to protect workers and the community from exposure to ETS. Every State and Territory bans smoking in enclosed public places including restaurants and cafes and liquor licensed premises. Indoor environments such as public transit, office buildings, shopping malls, schools and cinemas are also smoke free. All States and Territories except the Northern Territory have also prohibited smoking in cars when children are present. There is, however, variability between jurisdictions in terms of exemptions from indoor smoking bans.

Non smokers can be exposed to high levels of ETS in outdoor settings when close to or downwind of smokers.83 As restrictions on smoking in enclosed public places have become more common, smokers are increasingly required to smoke outdoors. Problems arise when smokers cluster around entrances and exits and near air conditioning intake vents to smoke. People who enter and exit the building are exposed to ETS and there may be problems with smoke drift into indoor smoke free areas.

States and Territories have different approaches for managing smoking in outdoor areas. Five jurisdictions (Western Australia, Queensland, Northern Territory, Tasmania and the ACT) have introduced bans on smoking in outdoor dining areas in cafes, restaurants and licensed premises. In NSW and Victoria, some local councils have prohibited smoking in outdoor areas. A number of jurisdictions have also prohibited smoking in a range of outdoor spaces such as sporting stadia, children’s playgrounds, patrolled beaches and bus stops.

As public awareness of the risks of ETS has increased and the introduction of smoke free public spaces has become the norm, the number of smoke free homes has increased. However, among disadvantaged groups, exposure to ETS remains high, particularly for children from low socioeconomic groups and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.27