Beach smoking ban stretches west

SMOKING is set to be banned on every Melbourne beach from Altona to Elwood, after Hobsons Bay Council became the third VictorianBeach smoking ban municipality to ban beachgoers from lighting up.

The council voted unanimously on Tuesday night to introduce bans for Williamstown and Altona beaches, and all public playgrounds in the area.

The move comes as the tobacco industry warns the price of cigarettes in Australia could be halved if a federal government proposal to introduce plain packaging is successful.

The new local law will affect the thousands of people who flock to the beaches, with those caught smoking facing fines of $200. It has been welcomed by Quit Victoria, which said public bans were critical in ”de-normalising” smoking.

Hobsons Bay mayor Michael Raffoul said the council had acted because of a lack of state government laws banning smoking in outdoor areas.

He said cigarette butts made up a significant proportion of litter at beaches and playgrounds in the municipality and a ban had been welcomed by residents.

”You would be mad not supporting a ban to help shield children from the deadly habit,” he said. ”We have a moral obligation towards our children. This is the least we can do.”

It is expected the new law will be in place before summer, with the council needing to prepare a community impact statement and accept submissions before it is voted on again.

The City of Port Phillip, which stretches from Port Melbourne to Elwood introduced similar laws along its beaches last summer, while the Surf Coast Shire banned smoking in 2008 in a Victorian first.

Several other Victorian councils also have some form of outdoor smoking bans in place, but the state lags behind New South Wales, where 79 councils have some form of outdoor smoke-free policy in place, according to Quit Victoria.

A 2009 Cancer Council Victoria survey found 77 per cent of 4501 Victorians polled said smoking should not be allowed in outdoor areas where children were present, with 63 per cent saying smoking should be banned on beaches.

Quit Victoria executive director Fiona Sharkie said public bans such as this were important to help stop children thinking smoking was normal by seeing adults smoke.

She said the ban reflected changing community values but the Baillieu government needed to introduce more bans in public places.

”I think this is a good first step in terms of responding to demands of their constituents,” she said.

”We’re [now] waiting for [the Baillieu government’s] plans and we’re hopeful they would proceed in this way.”

A spokeswoman for Health Minister David Davis said the government was aware of numerous smoking reduction measures undertaken by councils and was interested in looking at the results.

By Reid Sexton

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