Victoria's largest health, medical and community organisations have joined forces to urge state MPs to support comprehensive smokefree laws that cover both outdoor dining and drinking areas.
In a statement, 15 organisations including Cancer Council Victoria, the Australian Medical Association (Victoria) and Royal Australasian College of Surgeons have welcomed the Victorian Government's commitment to introduce smokefree outdoor dining across Victoria from 1 August 2017.
The organisations have called on MPs to also ensure that outdoor drinking areas are covered by the new smokefree laws - including areas where both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are served, such as at cafes.
Signatories to the statement say comprehensive smokefree outdoor laws are needed "to protect customers and staff from the serious harms of second-hand smoke, to support the efforts of people who have, or are trying to quit, and to show our children that smoking is not a necessary part of socialising in Victoria".
Cancer Council Victoria chief executive Todd Harper said the organisations, together with the majority of Victorians, would like Victoria to adopt the Queensland model which makes outdoor dining and drinking areas smokefree, while allowing some licenced venues to designate part of their outdoor areas for smoking under certain conditions.
"We don't want to see Victoria take the flawed NSW approach of smokefree dining only, which has caused widespread confusion and enforcement difficulties. Smokefree protection should not depend on whether food is being served,'' Mr Harper said.
"Victorians expect to be able to eat and drink outside without being exposed to secondhand smoke, and hospitality workers deserve a smokefree workplace. And it also makes good business sense."
Recent Cancer Council Victoria research revealed more than 20 percent of Victorians would visit cafes and restaurants more often if an outdoor smoking ban was introduced. This means more than 700,000 Victorians would visit these venues more often, each year, if outdoor areas were smokefree.
More than half of all Victorians report they have avoided sitting outside at cafes or restaurants in the past year due to people smoking.
"Who would have thought that restaurants would ask people not to eat food? Choosing smoking over eating is obviously the wrong decision for the health of our community," Mr Harper added.
"Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Australia, which is why it is so important that we protect workers and patrons from secondhand smoke and make it easier for smokers to butt out for good by adopting comprehensive smokefree laws."
Other signatories to the letter include Quit Victoria, the Asthma Foundation Victoria, Heart Foundation (Victoria), National Stroke Foundation, Australian Dental Association, Public Health Association Australia, the Australian Drug Foundation, the Victorian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance, United Voice, Parents' Voice, the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), and the Australian Health Promotion Association (Victoria).
People can find out more about smokefree laws and show their support for a comprehensive approach that covers both outdoor dining and drinking areas at www.cancervic.org.au/smokefree.