No smoking near schools, hospitals

BENDIGO institutions have welcomed new measures banning people from smoking around schools, hospitals and government buildings.

The Victorian Government this week announced its latest change to smoking laws which will prevent smokers from lighting up within four metres of certain building or property entrances.

The locations include childcare centres, indoor play centres, registered community health centres and courts.

Eaglehawk North Primary School assistant principal John Morton said the move was a positive step in combating smoking in the community.

"We've got kids from the age of five to 12 who would be fairly impressionable, and although some would have parents who smoke, they don't need to be seeing that around the school grounds," Mr Morton said.

"It's about modelling smoking as unacceptable and something you'd rather avoid."

Mr Morton said smoking was largely self-regulated in his school's community.

"I don't see it as a big problem here, we have occasionally had to speak to people smoking in the car park, but not too often," he said.

"I think smokers have become fairly aware of their impact on others where previously they didn't have to be."

Bendigo Health chief executive John Mulder said the reforms would reinforce the smoke-free message adopted by the health service six years ago.

“The last localised data set completed in 2008 showed 11.95 per cent of all deaths in the Loddon Mallee region were smoking related, ranking the region slightly above the state average of 11.90 per cent," Mr Mulder said.

“We can all be part of a healthy community if we each play our part and it’s as simple as healthy eating, regular exercise, moderate alcohol consumption, no illicit drugs and a smoke free environment.”

The Bendigo Advertiser spoke to several smokers who also welcomed the ban.

"It's about respect for other people who don't smoke, especially the kids," East Bendigo's Tina Ryan said.

But Strathdale man Harley Durie said the reforms infringed his personal freedoms.

"It's a free country, so I should be able to smoke at the front of any joint," Mr Durie said.

The new laws, which also include amendments to quadruple fines for retailers caught with illicit tobacco and cigarettes, are expected to come into force in mid-2015.

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