CENTRAL Victorian councillors say there needs to be a public debate on banning smoking in public places.
Proposals to outlaw smoking have been raised by a number of Victorian councils, after Baw Baw Shire became the first council to bring in a no-smoking ruling at outdoor dining areas.
A voluntary smoking ban in alfresco dining areas has been rolled out in the Macedon Ranges shire, while a City of Melbourne councillor has this week called for a city-wide smoke-free zone.
Bendigo mayor Lisa Ruffell said any smoking ban on cafes and restaurants, or in a public space, should be considered.
“I’m all for looking after our society. Of course I would love to see it happen in outdoor dining areas, there’s nothing worse than having a meal with smoke in your face,” she said.
Councillor Peter Cox said the issue needed to be put on the agenda.
“What we need to have is a public debate on it,” he said.
“We should be actively engaging communities.”
The calls were backed by councillor Rod Fyffe who said it would be a similar step to the ban on drinking alcohol within the Bendigo CBD.
“We’re a leader in banning alcohol in public spaces,” he said.
“We should look at smoking bans it in the context of what’s going to be best for our community.
We’d have to look at the ramifications and how we police it. I’m quite sure there would be a debate in the community if we considered such a move.”
A number of councillors said they would reject smoking bans, with Councillor Elise Chapman saying it would further alienate people who chose to smoke.
“I’m a smoker, and I already feel like a social outcast... I don’t think the council own the public air. I don’t tell other people they can only have one beer a day.”
Mount Alexander Shire mayor Michael Redden said there were no plans to bring in smoking bylaws but that it was “an obvious issue that needed to be discussed.”