Canberra bus stops, bus interchanges, future light rail stops and taxi ranks could become smoke-free zones under a proposal that would restrict smoking within 5m of public transport waiting areas.
The ACT is the only state or territory in Australia that does not currently have legislation to prohibit smoking at bus stops.
The Government proposes a 5m smoke-free buffer given the 9m recommended by a study published in the journal for Nicotine and Tobacco Research (2014), may not be practical for commuters waiting for transport, potentially resulting in commuters missing their transport or drivers not recognising a waiting passenger.
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If the proposal becomes law, infringement notices of $110 could be issued to those smoking within the 5m zone under the Smoke-Free Public Places Act, though a discussion paper published by the ACT Government states that officers authorised to enforce the law would take “an educational rather than regulatory approach whenever possible”.
Minister for Health Meegan Fitzharris is encouraging Canberrans to have their say on the proposal via the ACT Government’s yoursay.act.gov.au website.
Smoking has been prohibited within 10m of public playgrounds and play spaces since late last year under the Smoke-Free Public Places Act 2003.
“The ACT Government is committed to protecting the community from the harms of smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke, but we also want to reduce the normalcy and social acceptability of smoking behaviours, particularly for young people in our community,” Minister Fitzharris said.
“This proposal would include banning smoking within 5m of all publicly and privately owned transport waiting areas, including bus and coach interchanges, residential bus stops, taxi ranks, light rail stations and train stations.”
The Health Minister said public transport waiting areas often attracted large numbers of people including the elderly, tourists and schoolchildren.
“Being near someone who is smoking can expose you to harmful second-hand smoke and this exposure can cause a range of adverse health effects including lung cancer and heart disease,” she said.
“For children, inhaling second-hand smoke is even more dangerous and can lead to health problems, such as bronchitis, pneumonia and asthma. This is because children’s airways are smaller, and their immune systems are less developed.
“I encourage Canberrans, particularly those using public transport services, to provide feedback on this proposal over the next six weeks.”
The aforementioned discussion paper, Smoke-Free ACT Public Transport Waiting Areas, provides information about the proposal to help interested community members to respond.
The consultation closes on 7 April 2017. To contribute your feedback, visit www.yoursay.act.gov.au.