15.5 Smoking bans in outdoor areas

Following the successful adoption of indoor smoking bans, some tobacco control organisations and communities have focused their efforts on seeking bans on smoking in outdoor public areas, including beaches, parks, footpaths and car parks.1, 2 Outdoor smoking bans have also been embraced on grounds of educational facilities and hospitals.

As restrictions on smoking in enclosed public places have become more common, smokers are increasingly required to smoke outdoors. Problems arise when smokers cluster around entrances and exits, and near air-conditioning intake vents. People who enter and exit the building are exposed to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) and there may be problems with smoke drift into indoor smokefree areas. Several states and territories have introduced legislation to create a smokefree buffer zone around entrances to buildings and air-conditioning intakes.

There is persuasive scientific evidence that smoking in crowded outdoor areas such as restaurant patios can lead to harmful levels of chronic secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure.3 Policies banning smoking near children's playground equipment recognise that adult role modelling of smoking can increase youth smoking uptake.4 Playground smoking bans can also reduce discarded cigarette butts, which can cause nicotine poisoning if swallowed by small children. Given that smoking bans reduce smoking prevalence and consumption, it is argued that outdoor bans will further aid in reducing smoking rates.5 Concerns about cigarette butt litter, particularly in natural environments such as beaches, have also influenced the debate.6 The risk of grassfires has provided another rationale for bans in natural parklands in California.7

The extension of smoking bans to outdoor areas has not been without some controversy and disagreement within the public health and tobacco control community.8 There is less exposure to SHS in outdoor settings and some experts consider that this undermines public health arguments for smokefree areas outdoors.9 As smoking rates fall, non-smokers have become less tolerant of smoking, and arguments for preventing smoking in some areas may be chiefly about nuisance rather than major public health risk.

Cancer Council New South Wales recommends that smoking bans be adopted in the following outdoor areas:1

  • al fresco dining venues
  • sporting stadiums and grounds
  • children's playgrounds
  • outdoor entertainment areas and venues
  • within 7 m of building entrances
  • crowded beach locations
  • transport waiting areas (e.g. taxi stands, railway platforms, bus stops)
  • outdoor market areas.

15.5.1 Legislation and policies banning smoking outdoors

A number of Australian states and territories have legislated to prohibit smoking in one or more outdoor areas, including al fresco dining areas, children's playgrounds and beaches. In the absence of state bans, many local governments across the country have implemented smoking restrictions in a range of council controlled outdoor areas.

In 2004, Sydney's Mosman Municipal Council banned smoking in beaches, outdoor dining areas, children's playgrounds, council events, playing fields, within 10 m of all council properties, bushland, and foreshore reserves. In March 2007, the ban was extended to every council controlled public space, including parks, public squares, bus shelters and council car parks.2 The only public outdoor places Mosman smokers may light up are some footpaths and roads. Beaches

A mixture of local government and state action has led to restrictions on smoking at a number of Australian beaches. States that have legislated to make smoking illegal on beaches include Queensland (in 2005) and Western Australia (in 2010). The Queensland ban prohibits smoking between the flags on patrolled beaches and anywhere on an artificial beach between sunrise and sunset. The West Australian ban applies between the flags in patrolled swimming areas.

In May 2004 Sydney's Manly Council became the first jurisdiction in Australia, and only the second in the world following Los Angeles, to legislate a smoking ban on a public beach. The primary reason the council voted for the ban was to reduce cigarette butt litter so as to prevent the environmental damage caused by butts and improve the amenity of beaches.10 Sydney's Waverley Council immediately followed Manly's example, implementing a ban on smoking on its beaches including Sydney's famous tourist beach Bondi in December 2004. As at 31 July 2010,
14 New South Wales councils had adopted beach smoking bans.

Victoria's Surf Coast Shire enacted a local law banning smoking on beaches along the Great Ocean Road in 2008. Reasons given for the ban included to provide leadership on community health and wellbeing, minimise cigarette butt pollution, improve amenity, improve the health of members of the community and raise awareness of smoking issues. Port Phillip Council implemented Victoria's second beach smoking ban in 2010 covering the popular beaches of St Kilda, Elwood and Port Melbourne.

The City of Joondalup and City of Cockburn in Western Australia have also implemented beach smoking bans.

In the US as of 1 April 2011, smoking was banned on beaches in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the State of Maine prohibits smoking on beaches in its state parks.11 Smoking is banned on all areas of beaches in 105 municipalities throughout the country and many more ban smoking in particular areas of beaches.11 Children's playgrounds

Evidence suggests that decreasing the visibility of smoking to children may lessen the likelihood of them viewing smoking as a socially acceptable behaviour, and thereby reduce the chance of them beginning to smoke.12,13 Smokefree playgrounds have strong public support (see Chapter 15, Section 15.2.2). In Queensland and Western Australia, smoking within 10 m of outdoor children's playground equipment is outlawed under state legislation. In March 2011 the Tasmanian and South Australian governments announced the introduction of equivalent prohibitions in those states.14,15

Local councils are being encouraged to enact smoking bans in children's playgrounds for the health and safety of their communities. In May 2003, Launceston City Council became the first local government in Australia to ban smoking at children's playgrounds. As at 31 July 2010, 75 New South Wales councils had playground smoking bans in place. Other local governments that have restricted smoking in playgrounds include the Town of Vincent and City of Cockburn (Western Australia) and Monash and Moonee Valley councils (Victoria). Educational campuses

A number of Australian universities have adopted smokefree campus policies under university regulations. Smoking will be completely banned in Curtin University's West Australian campuses from January 2012, with breaches being punishable by a fine. Notre Dame University has had a strict non-smoking policy since 2002, and other West Australian universities including Edith Cowan University, the University of Western Australia and Murdoch University are also considering campus-wide smoking bans.

Macquarie University in New South Wales restricted smoking to designated outdoor zones in 2010 and aims to go totally smokefree by 2015. The reasons given by the university for adopting the smokefree policy include to protect staff and students from the health risks of passive smoking, reduce litter, protect the environment from chemicals contained in cigarette butt litter, and to reflect broader community attitudes towards smoking.16 Other universities in Australia that either have or are in the process of going totally smokefree include the Australian Catholic University, Adelaide University and Deakin University.

Educational institutions across the world are increasingly moving towards totally smokefree campuses. As of 1 April 2011, more than 500 US colleges and universities have implemented smokefree campus policies, as have universities in New Zealand, Canada, Europe, Hong Kong, Vietnam, South Korea and Singapore.17 Sporting spectator venues

In Queensland smoking is banned in stadiums managed by the Major Sports Facilities Authority including Suncorp Stadium and the Gabba. Outdoor public venues in the Northern Territory that have an on-site food service must be smokefree. Venues that do not have an on-site food service may allocate designated smoking areas. The Tasmanian Government has indicated that it intends to make it illegal to smoke in and within 20 m of the competition and seating area at all outdoor sporting venues. A total of 61 councils in New South Wales have implemented smoking bans at sports fields as at July 2010. Victoria's Monash Council has agreed to introduce a local law to ban smoking adjacent to designated buildings at sporting reserves from 1 October 2011.

Several sporting facilities have voluntarily adopted smokefree policies, including the Melbourne Cricket Ground and Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, NIB Stadium in Perth and AAMI Stadium in Adelaide. Major smokefree sporting events have included the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa and Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Recreational venues

In Australia only a few outdoor recreational venues are covered by state or territory level legislative smoking bans. In Victoria, smoking is banned at underage music or dance events under the Tobacco Act 1987 (Vic.). Other examples include the Northern Territory's ban on smoking in outdoor public venues, which commenced in 2011, and Tasmania's impending introduction of smokefree areas at swimming pools. Local smokefree laws cover many recreational venues and events held on council controlled land. Several recreational venues both within Australia and internationally have voluntarily adopted smokefree policies, including zoos, concert venues and outdoor markets.

In the US, smoking is banned in zoos in at least 50 municipalities and throughout the state of Oklahoma.18 Transit areas

State or territory level statutory smoking bans apply in some outdoor transit areas, and in others smoking is banned under a local law. In the Northern Territory a ban on smoking in public transport areas has been in effect since 2003. In Victoria smoking was banned in covered areas of train station platforms, trams stops and bus stops from 1 March 2006. Since January 2010, local governments in Queensland have been empowered under the Tobacco and Other Smoking Products Act 1998 to regulate smoking at public transport waiting stops. In March 2011, the Tasmanian Government announced plans to implement smoking bans in bus malls and within 3 m of covered bus shelters and the South Australian Government announced that it will extend smokefree areas to include under covered transport waiting areas. Hobart City Council has banned smoking in Hobart Bus Mall.

In the United States as at 1 April 2011, smoking is prohibited in public transit areas in at least 210 municipalities.19 The States of Iowa and Wisconsin, the Territory of Guam and the US Virgin Islands prohibit smoking in outdoor public transit waiting areas.19 Parks, state forest and national parks

As of 1 April 2011, smoking was banned in parks in more than 500 individual US municipalities and in all parks in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.20 In Australia at least 11 New South Wales councils have banned smoking in council controlled reserves or parks under local laws, including Gosford, Hornsby, Kogarah, Lachlan, Lane Cove, Mosman, Newcastle, Port Stephens, Ryde, Willoughby and Wyong councils, and the town of Vincent in Western Australia has banned smoking in reserves. Other outdoor areas

Smokefree legislation in the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and Western Australia requires occupiers to take reasonable steps to prevent cigarette smoke drifting from areas where smoking is permitted into smokefree areas.

Restrictions on smoking near building entrances at the state or territory level apply in the Northern Territory, Queensland and Tasmania. In the Northern Territory, smoking is banned in entrance areas and air conditioning inlets areas. In Queensland, the prohibition applies anywhere within 4 m of an entrance to a non-residential building. In Tasmania, smoking is banned within 3 m of any entrance to or exit from a building, and within 10 m of any building ventilation equipment.

In 2011, the Tasmanian Government stated that it intends to ban smoking in pedestrian malls. From January 2010, Queensland local governments can choose to regulate smoking in pedestrian malls and other public outdoor areas in accordance with a power under the Tobacco and Other Smoking Products Act 1998 (Qld). A similar power exists in the Northern Territory. The owner-occupier of any public venue (such as a shopping centre, sports facility, business or workshop) can declare any public outdoor area a smokefree area under Northern Territory tobacco control legislation. Brisbane City Council used the Queensland power to introduce a smoking ban in Queen Street Mall. Other local government level bans on smoking in pedestrian malls include Hobart City Council's ban on smoking in Elizabeth Street Mall and Frankston Council's smokefree zone within designated streets of its central activity district.

Complete smoking bans in outdoor drinking areas have not yet been implemented in any Australian jurisdiction. Restrictions on smoking in outdoor drinking areas apply in the Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory, Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia. Smoking is permitted in designated outdoor smoking areas of licensed premises in each of these jurisdictions only. Generally, the designated outdoor smoking zone must make up no more than 50% of the outdoor licensed area, and measures must be taken to protect staff and other patrons from exposure to secondhand smoke.

Find up-to-date information about smokefree policies in outdoor areas in the US at the Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights website.

Relevant news and research

For recent news items and research on this topic, click here. ( Last updated January 2024)


1. The Cancer Council New South Wales. Outdoor smoking: A background paper. Sydney: TCCNSW, 2007. Available from: http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/editorial.asp?pageid=2255

2. Dickens J. First smoke-free suburb. The Sunday Telegraph, (Sydney) 2007:28 March. Available from: http://www.news.com.au/sundaytelegraph/story/0,,21399665-5006010,00.html

3. Klepeis N, Ott W and Switzer P. Real-time measurement of outdoor tobacco smoke particles. Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association 2007;57(5):522–34. Available from: http://tobaccosmoke.org/files/private/Klepeis_etal_OTS_Preprint.pdf

4. The Cancer Council New South Wales. Smokefree playgrounds. Sydney: 2007 viewed july 2007. Available from: http://www.nswcc.org.au/html/policyaction/campaigns/smokefree_playgrounds/downloads/smokefree_factsheet5.pdf

5. Messer K, Pierce JP, Zhu S-H, Hartman AM, Al-Delaimy WK, Trinidad DR, et al. The California Tobacco Control Program's effect on adult smokers: (1) Smoking cessation. Tobacco Control 2007;16(2):85–90. Available from: http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/cgi/content/abstract/16/2/85

6. Bloch M and Shopland DR. Outdoor smoking bans: more than meets the eye. Tobacco Control 2000;9(1):99. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10691765

7. Eriksen MP and Gottlieb NH. A review of the health impact of smoking control at the workplace. American Journal of Health Promotion 1998;13(2):83–104. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10346662

8. Repace J. Banning outdoor smoking is scientifically justifiable. Tobacco Control 2000;9(1):98. Available from: http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/9/1/98.full

9. Chapman S. Evidence, ethics, hubris and the future of second-hand smoke policy. Tobacco Control 2007;16(2):73–4. Available from: http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/16/2/73.short

10. Beach smoking ban targets pollution, health. ABC news, (Sydney) 2004:18 May. Available from: http://www.tobacco.org/news/163998.html

11. Americans Non-smokers Rights Foundation. Municipalities with smokefree beach laws enacted as of 1 April 2011. Berkeley, California: ANRF, 2011 Last modified 20 April 2009 viewed 30 April 2009. Available from: http://www.no-smoke.org/pdf/SmokefreeBeaches.pdf

12. Alesci N, Forster J and Blaine T. Smoking visibility, perceived acceptability, and frequency in various locations among youth and adults. Preventative Medicine 2003;36(3):272–81. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12634018

13. Wakefield MA, Chaloupka FJ, Kaufman NJ, Orleans CT, Barker DC and Ruel EE. Effect of restrictions on smoking at home, at school, and in public places on teenage smoking: cross sectional study. British Medical Journal 2000;321(7257):333–7. Available from: http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/abstract/321/7257/333

14. Michelle O'Byrne. Getting even tougher on tobacco Media release. Hobart: Tasmanian Government, 18 March 2011 viewed April 2011. Available from: https://clinicalnetworks.dhhs.tas.gov.au/download/attachments/11338170/Getting+Tougher+on+Tobacco+21Mar2011.pdf?version=1&modificationDate=1300660674770

15. SA to toughen anti-smoking laws, ABC News. (Viewed 14 April 2011). Available from: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/03/02/3152483.htm?site=southeastsa

16. Macquarie University. Smoke-free campus policy: policy consultation and research. Sydney: Macquarie University, 2010 Last modified December 2009 viewed 16 May 2011. Available from: http://www.hr.mq.edu.au/HealthAndSafety/SmokeFreeCampus/SmokeFreeCampus.html

17. Americans Non-smokers Rights Foundation. US colleges and universities with smokefree air policies enacted as of 1 April 2011. Berkeley, California: ANRF, 2011 Last modified 20 April 2009 viewed 30 April 2009. Available from: http://www.no-smoke.org/pdf/smokefreecollegesuniversities.pdf

18. Americans Non-smokers Rights Foundation. Municipalities with smokefree zoo laws enacted as of 1 April 2011. Berkeley, California: ANRF, 2011 Last modified 20 April 2009 viewed 30 April 2009. Available from: http://www.no-smoke.org/pdf/SmokefreeZoos.pdf

19. Americans Non-smokers Rights Foundation. Municipalities with smokefree outdoor public transit waiting area laws enacted as of 1 April 2011. Berkeley, California: ANRF, 2011 Last modified 20 April 2009 viewed 30 April 2009. Available from: http://www.no-smoke.org/pdf/SmokefreeTransitStops.pdfhttp://www.no-smoke.org/pdf/SmokefreeBusStops.pdf

20. Americans Non-smokers Rights Foundation. Municipalities with smokefree park laws enacted as of 1 April 20, 2011. Berkeley, California: ANRF, 2011 Last modified 20 April 2009 viewed 30 April 2009. Available from: http://www.no-smoke.org/pdf/SmokefreeParks.pdf