15.2 Public opinion about smokefree environments

Public concerns about secondhand smoke (SHS) have increased over the years from the late-1980s and public support for restrictions on smoking has increased in parallel. A 2003 systematic review of Australian studies (published from 1992 to 2002) found a 20% increase in support for bars and gaming venues to be entirely smokefree.1 The researchers predicted that support would 'reach 80% or more within 6 months, should a ban be introduced'(p321).1 Subsequent research has indeed shown continuing increases in support.

15.2.1 Community attitudes to indoor bans

15.2.1.1 National studies of attitudes to smoking bans

The National Drug Strategy Household Survey of 1998, 2001, 2004 and 2007 included questions to gauge community support for measures to reduce problems associated with tobacco use. Of all the venues asked about in 2007, support was highest for smoking bans in workplaces, with 82% of all respondents in support. There were substantial increases in support for smoking bans in pubs and clubs, with the biggest increase in support among smokers (from 20.5% in 2001 to 41.3% in 2007) (Table 15.2.1). In 2004, 73.1% of respondents supported smoking bans in pubs and clubs. With the successful implementation of smoking bans in bars and pubs in various states and territories from 2004, this figure increased to 77% in 2007.

Levels of support have increased over time in every jurisdiction, with the largest increases in support tending to follow the introduction of smoking bans (Figure 15.2.1).

Table 15.2.1
Support for measures to ban smoking in selected venues, by smoking status, Australia 2001, 2004 and 2007

 

Smoker (%)

Ex-smoker (%)

Never smoker (%)

All (%)

 

2001

2004

2007

2001

2004

2007

2001

2004

2007

2001

2004

2007

Restaurants

60.0

77.3

88.5

89.1

92.8

90.4

89.1

Workplace

55.3

55.2

53.5

85.6

87.1

87.0

91.0

91.0

89.9

87.1

82.0

Pubs/clubs

20.5

28.4

41.3

67.9

73.1

83.0

76.1

81.8

87.0

73.1

77.0

Shopping centres

66.9

47.0

88.2

72.3

92.5

78.8

72.3

Sources: National Drug Strategy Household Survey: detailed findings 20012, 20043 and 20074. Questions on support for smokefree policies not included in 2010 survey.

 

Figure 15.2.1

Figure 15.2.1
Support for banning smoking in pubs/clubs: population aged 14 years or older, state and territories, 1998, 2001, 2004 and 2007 (per cent)

Source: AIHW National Drug Strategy Household Surveys 19985, 20016, 20047 and 20078 Questions on support for smokefree policies not included in 2010 survey.

15.2.1.2 State surveys of support for indoor smoking bans

Many surveys have documented increasing levels of public support for restrictions on smoking in indoor workplaces and other venues in Victoria,9–16 South Australia,17–22 Queensland23 and New South Wales.24–26

When adults were asked whether smoking bans would make them more or less likely to visit licensed premises, the vast majority responded that smoking bans would make them either more likely to visit or would make no difference.26,27 In New South Wales in 2008, almost 40% of adults reported that they would be more likely, and only 4% would be less likely, to frequent hotels and licensed premises as a result of the total ban on smoking indoors. For more than half of adults (56%), the total ban on smoking indoors in hotels and licensed premises would make no difference.26 Between 2003 and 2008 in New South Wales there was a significant increase in the proportion of adults who would be more likely to frequent hotels and licensed premises as a result of the total ban on smoking indoors (rising from 24.2% in 2003 to 36.9% in 2007 and 39.5% in 2008).26 At the same time, there has been a decline in the proportion of adults who would be less likely to frequent hotels and licensed premises as a result of the total ban on smoking indoors (falling from 9.8% in 2003 to 5.8% in 2007 to 4.3% in 2008).

15.2.2 Community attitudes to outdoor bans

15.2.2.1 Support for restrictions on smoking in places children gather: playgrounds and other areas

In 2007, two-thirds of Victorians and half of Victorian smokers agreed that smoking should not be allowed in outdoor areas where children are present (Table 15.2.2).

The survey found almost universal support for banning smoking in the grounds of primary and secondary schools, among smokers, former smokers and those who had never smoked (95.5%, 95.7% and 97.6% respectively) (Table 15.2.3).28

A number of studies have also found very strong support for restrictions on smoking in playgrounds.25,2832

Surveys of adults conducted in New South Wales in 2006, 2007 and 2009 found overwhelming support for restricting smoking in playgrounds (Table 15.2.4).25,30 While support for smokefree restrictions was higher among non-smokers, there was majority support even among smokers. In 2006, support for making playgrounds smokefree by law was 93% among non-smokers and 83% among smokers.30 By 2009 support for making all playgrounds smokefree by law had increased, particularly among smokers (89%), and was 94% among non-smokers.25

Results from the South Australian Health Omnibus Survey also demonstrated very high support for smokefree playgrounds: 85% supported a total ban on smoking at children's playgrounds, 11% supported smokefree areas and only 4% supported no restrictions (Figure 15.2.2).22

Table 15.2.2
Attitudes about smoking in outdoor areas where children are present, Victoria 2007*

Response

All (%)
(n=3001)

Smokers (%)

Former smokers (%)

Never smokers (%)

No, not allowed

65.8

51.2

65.0

71.5

Yes, allowed

18.6

32.0

19.2

13.5

Maybe allowed/ Don't know/ Can't say

15.6

16.8

15.8

15.0

* Note: Respondents were asked: Do you 'think smoking should be allowed in ... outdoor places where children are present?'

Source: McCarthy 200828

Table 15.2.3
Attitudes about smoking on primary and secondary school grounds, Victoria 2007

Response

All (%)
(n=3001)

Smokers (%)

Former smokers (%)

Never smokers (%)

No, not allowed

96.6

95.5

95.7

97.6

Yes, allowed

1.5

2.6

1.9

0.9

Maybe allowed/ Don't know/ Can't say

1.9

2.0

2.4

1.6

Source: McCarthy 200828

Table 15.2.4
Support for making all playgrounds smokefree by law, New South Wales adults

Response

2006 (%)

2007 (%)

2009 (%)

Strongly agree

84

84

86

Agree

7

6

8

Disagree

4

5

3

Strongly disagree

4

5

3

Source: Cancer Institute 200930

 

Figure 15.2.2

Figure 15.2.2
Support for smoking restrictions in outdoor public spaces, South Australia, 2007

Source: TCRE 200831

15.2.2.2 Support for smoking restrictions in other outdoor areas

Support has been growing for restrictions on smoking in other outdoor areas where people may be exposed to fairly high concentrations of tobacco smoke.

Smokefree areas for fixed seating in sporting venues has been popular for some time.33 Over three-quarters (76.6%) of New South Wales adults surveyed in 2004 supported a ban on smoking in sporting stadiums, and over half of adults surveyed (55.5%) supported a ban on smoking at beaches.32

The South Australian Health Omnibus Survey found that more than 80% of South Australians would support either a total ban on smoking or the inclusion of smokefree areas in outdoor dining areas, entertainment venues and sporting grounds (Figure 15.2.2). Support was lower, but still given by the majority, for a total ban or smokefree areas in outdoor areas at pubs and at beaches.

The New South Wales Health Survey revealed that in 2008, 40.6% of adults would be more likely to frequent outdoor dining areas if there was a total ban on smoking. More than half of New South Wales adults (54%) said a total ban on smoking in outdoor dining areas would make no difference to their patronage of these areas, while 45.4% would be less likely to frequent outdoor dining areas if there was a total ban on smoking.26

In New South Wales between 2006 and 2008, the proportion of adults who would be more likely to frequent outdoor dining areas if there was a total ban on smoking increased from 38.2% to 40.6%. The increase was significant in females and for urban health areas. There was no significant change in the proportion of adults who would be less likely to frequent outdoor dining areas if there was a total ban on smoking.26

A survey of public opinion conducted by the Cancer Institute NSW in 2009 revealed strong support for making beaches smokefree (74%): an increase from 70% in 2006. There was even stronger support for smokefree sports stadiums (86%).25

The Cancer Council Victoria survey of Victorian adults in 2009 found that 71% of respondents supported smoking bans at outdoor restaurant dining areas, 84% supported bans within hospital grounds and 63% supported bans at beaches.29

Recent news and research

For recent news items and research on this topic, click here (Last updated February 2017)     

References

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