Leading health groups call on Govt to stop Victoria becoming a ‘secondhand smoke state'

Wednesday 17 April, 2013

No butts about protecting children's health, says ‘Keep Fresh Air Fresh' alfresco dining campaign

Children are breathing in secondhand smoke in outdoor dining areas while Victoria lags behind in smokefree dining legislation, say five of Victoria's leading health agencies.

Asthma Foundation Victoria, Australian Medical Association (Victoria), Cancer Council Victoria, Heart Foundation (Victoria), and Quit Victoria have today launched an online campaign ‘Keep Fresh Air Fresh' to urge the government to protect the health of Victorians, particularly children, from secondhand smoke.

The campaign encourages Victorians to urge the Napthine Government to add outdoor dining and drinking areas to the list of smokefree outdoor areas it is currently consulting on. Victoria is the only state in Australia that has not committed to or already introduced a ban on smoking in outdoor dining and drinking areas.

CEO of Asthma Foundation Victoria, Robin Ould, says banning smoking would help children (and adults) with asthma breathe easier while in outdoor areas such as cafes and restaurants.

"One in nine children and one in ten adults in Australia have been diagnosed with asthma this is a large proportion of our population. Secondhand smoke is a major trigger for asthma attacks, so making outdoor dining areas smokefree will enable families, particularly those with children with asthma, to enjoy dining out.

"Children's respiratory and immune systems are particularly vulnerable to the damaging effects of secondhand smoke.

"Currently asthma is the number one cause of avoidable hospitalisations in children in Melbourne. Taking steps to reduce potential triggers, such as making alfresco dining areas smokefree, will make a significant improvement to the lives of Victorians with asthma," said Mr Ould.

Low levels of exposure to secondhand smoke also increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and acute cardiac events.

Heart Foundation Victoria CEO Diana Heggie urged the Government to go beyond its current proposal and introduce smokefree outdoor dining and drinking given the high level of public support.

"We know that 70% of Victorians support such a ban and smokefree legislation is a key factor in driving down smoking rates," she said. "Melbourne is renowned for its café culture which can only be enhanced by creating smokefree environments where all Victorian families can enjoy outdoor dining without a side of smoke," said Fiona Sharkie, Executive Director of Quit Victoria.

"The effects of secondhand smoke are well known," AMA Victoria President Dr Parnis said. "Cigarette smoke can cause eye and nose irritation and in the longer term can lead to heart disease and lung cancer as well as exacerbate asthma in children and adults."

"However, the bans on smoking in communal areas that we are proposing can effectively reduce the harms of second hand smoke and the number of individuals smoking."

"It is high time the Victorian Government caught up with the progress made by other states in implementing tobacco reform," Dr Parnis said.

CEO of Cancer Council Victoria, Todd Harper, said "Secondhand smoke is a known carcinogen and the US Surgeon General has declared there is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure. Making outdoor dining smokefree is an important preventative health measure, and it also makes good business sense when 86% of Victorians don't smoke."

To have your say on Victoria's smokefree laws, visit freshairfresh.com.au before the consultation ends on 17 May 2013.

About Victoria's outdoor smoking bans

Victoria is the only state in Australia that has not committed to or already introduced a ban on smoking in outdoor dining and drinking areas.

Following a ban on smoking on patrolled beaches from 1 December 2012, on 6 April 2013, the Victorian Department of Health began a consultation asking for submissions from the public on a proposal to ban smoking at public places including children's playgrounds, public swimming pools and sea baths, skate parks and children's sporting events but the current list does not include smokefree outdoor dining and drinking areas. The government is currently taking submissions from the public.

Updated: 17 Apr, 2013