Call for blanket ban on smoking
Health groups today called for a blanket ban on smoking in restaurants, bars and hotels after a Victorian woman won damages because she suffered an asthma attack when dining in a restaurant which allowed smoking.
Spokesman for Victorian smoking and health program, Quit, Todd Harper urged restaurants to cut out smoking or risk similar claims.
Andrea Bowles, 53, of Patterson Lakes, sued the owners of Tien Tien Cafe Bar in St Kilda for pain and suffering, medical expenses and loss of income.
Ms Bowles, who is away on holiday, was awarded $7606 today in the Melbourne Magistrates Court today.
This is a clear decision ... any hospitality venue that does not recognise the health and safety of their customers and employees on this very important health issue does so at their own peril, Mr Harper said.
Smoke-free dining legislation is now in effect in New South Wales, the ACT, Western Australia, South Australia and will be introduced in Victoria next July.
I would urge those restaurants (in Victoria) to however beat that ban and go earlier, Mr Harper said.
I would also say to hotels and clubs to start planning because they need to recognise that smoke-free restrictions are inevitable in this state.
Queensland Cancer Fund executive director Alan Hooper said the decision renewed the urgency for smoking bans in Queensland.
Smoking bans won't only protect customers and employees from tobacco-related health problems, they will also protect business owners from the legal minefield of exposing people to health problems, Mr Hooper said.
The Australian Council on Smoking and Health (ACOSH) director Ron Edwards said NSW, the ACT, Western Australia and South Australia had acted sensibly in introducing legislation banning smoking in restaurants and cafes.
But they needed to toughen the laws to extend to smoking in hotels and casinos, he said.
Now people who are at risk - like people with asthma or heart disease or pregnant woman, particularly in their first three months - might say 'I'm going to take action against you', he said.
So it puts all those things into the melting pot.
Ms Bowles said a visit to the restaurant on August 22, 1998, had triggered an asthma episode from which she took two months to recover.
Magistrate Michael Smith today said the condition in the restaurant caused the onset of an asthma attack and had contributed to subsequent symptoms.
There was an implied contract that the conditions in the restaurant would be safe and not injurious to Ms Bowles' health and that the smoke would be kept to a safe and not uncomfortable level, he said.
The magistrate said the Tien Tien Cafe Bar owed a duty of care to Ms Bowles and had breached that duty.
He awarded her $10,866 damages but reduced that to $7606 because there had been an element of contributory negligence on her behalf.