Government considers total smoke ban
SMOKING in clubs and pubs may be banned totally under tougher laws being considered by the State Government.
Under existing legislation, smoking is prohibited in enclosed places but there are exemptions for clubs, pubs and the Burswood Casino. Tougher rules will require amendments to the laws.
The laws, introduced in 1999, require Health Minister Bob Kucera to review them and report the findings to Parliament by January next year.
Australian Council on Smoking and Health director Ron Edwards said yesterday that extending the bans to venues with exemptions was highly desirable.
"Changes in restaurants and other areas have been successful and this is a chance to reflect on those changes in the context of hotels," he said.
The Health Department has released a discussion paper, which is part of the review, and has called for public comment about the existing laws.
Australian Hotels Association executive director Bradley Woods said the discussion paper was biased.
"The discussion paper is not an objective review document, it ignores public opinion and it shows the department has a clear agenda to ban smoking," he said. "The anti-smoking lobby doesn't need to put a submission in as the Health Department has done all their work for them.
"In all 31 pages of the discussion paper, not one reference is made to the impact the existing regulations have had on the industry or the potential for future loss of jobs."
The paper states that the existing legislation can only be tightened. It reveals some teething problems with the laws, including difficulties in enforcement and interpretation, and highlights the dangers of passive smoking.
"Evidence demonstrating the harm associated with exposure to environmental tobacco smoke is unequivocal and indisputable," it states. "Further, there is no evidence of a safe exposure level and there are no national or international standards for safe exposure."
The paper refers to Californian research which analysed taxation department figures and found a small positive effect on bar revenues as a result of anti-smoking laws.
Heart Foundation chief executive Maurice Swanson said the Government should remove exemptions for the casino, hotel bars and nightclubs. "To do anything else would be to put a lower value on the health of employees in the hospitality industry," he said.
Fran Robb, spokeswoman for Mr Kucera, rejected the hotels association's claims.
She said there was a clear requirement in the Act for the review. "There is also a specific requirement for the Government to examine what further actions need to be taken to achieve smoke-free enclosed public places," she said.
The public and key stakeholders were being encouraged to participate in the review.