15.0 Introduction

This chapter is about smokefree areas and environments in Australia. It describes locations and environments where the population has either been exposed or continues to be exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke. A detailed overview of existing smokefree legislation is provided. Results of surveys indicating support for and opposition to smokefree environments are also outlined. Information about the health effects of tobacco smoke, the legal history and the influence of the tobacco industry can be found in other chapters.

As described in Chapter 4, tobacco smoke adversely affects both smokers and non-smokers in indoor environments and in some outdoor environments. The most common terms used to describe exposure to tobacco smoke in non-smokers are passive smoking, environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), secondhand smoke and tobacco smoke pollution. The term secondhand smoke (SHS) is used throughout this chapter, except where citing particular authors who have used other terms.

Smoking bans have been marked by incremental steps involving advances in scientific evidence and growing public acceptance and political resolve, which have converged to make legislative change possible.1 Another significant factor driving legislative change was concern about employer liability under occupational health and safety laws. As the scientific evidence continued to mount, exposure to SHS was recognised as both a risk to public health and a significant occupational health and safety risk. On the 1st of December 1986, the Commonwealth Department of Health implemented a smokefree workplace policy. By the mid-1990s, smokefree policies had been introduced extensively in both the public and private sectors. All government offices (Commonwealth, state and territory) had become smokefree and restrictions had also been introduced in many shopping centres, hospitals, schools, childcare settings and entertainment venues. By 2001, smokefree public places legislation had been enacted in New South Wales, Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory, Western Australia and South Australia (public dining areas only).

Countries with comprehensive laws banning smoking in most indoor public spaces include Bhutan, Canada, Djibouti, Guatemala, Iran, Ireland, New Zealand, Spain, Turkey, Uruguay and Zambia.2 Bans are less comprehensive in countries such as Italy, France, Norway and Sweden, where smoking is permitted in designated smoking rooms. In October 2010, Finland extended its national smokefree law to places used by children and young people, public venues of residential areas, outdoor public places and hotel rooms, with a view to phasing out smoking by 2040.

A number of US states have enacted wide-ranging smokefree laws, including California and New York, however only 41% of the US population is estimated to be covered by such laws.3 Comprehensive smokefree laws have also been passed in a number of large cities, including Hong Kong, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro and Singapore.3

Relevant news and research

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1. Bryan-Jones K and Chapman S. Political dynamics promoting the incremental regulation of secondhand smoke: a case study of New South Wales, Australia. BMC Public Health 2006;6:192. Available from: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/6/192

2. World Health Organization. WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2009: implementing smoke-free environments. Geneva: WHO, 2009. Available from: http://www.who.int/tobacco/mpower/en/index.html

3. Breysse P and Navas-Acien A. The smoking gun: working to eliminate tobacco smoke exposure. Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology 2010;20(5):397–8. Available from: http://www.nature.com/jes/journal/v20/n5/full/jes201034a.html