Victoria’s anti-smoking peak body has thrown its support behind calls for the Bendigo Easter Festival to go smoke-free.
Quit Victoria director Sarah White said members of the public expected to attend large gatherings without being exposed to secondhand smoke.
“It’s important to remember that 88% - or nine out of 10 - Victorians don’t smoke,” Dr White said.
Moving to a smoke-free festival would provide “a breath of fresh air” for participants, she said, as well as discourage children from thinking of the drug as normal.
People trying to quit would also be less tempted to take up the habit again, Dr White argued.
She also smoke-free areas were generally respected by smokers and encouraged organisers to education people about where they could or could not light up.
Bendigo Easter Fair Society president Simon Mulqueen said his committee could consider putting a stop to smoking near food retail areas at the festival.
From August 1, Victorian law will demand a 10-metre smoke-free perimeter around food service areas. Outdoor dining areas will also be declared smoke-free.
Although a blanket ban on the entire festival was a worthwhile premise, it would be impossible to police, Mr Mulqueen said.
He also called on smokers who attended to move away from children when indulging in their habit.
“If you hot too heavy-handed, people would start to ignore you,” he said.
Smoking was so uncommon now that any sign of cigarette smoke alarmed some members of the public, Mr Mulqueen observed.
Debate about smoking at the festival ignited on Sunday when Eppalock councillor Yvonne Wrigglesworth proposed a cigarette ban for next year’s event on Twitter.
The idea quickly won the support of the other Bendigo leaders, including Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services president Abhishek Awasthi. The LCMS head called smoking at the festival “disgusting”.
A poll of Bendigo Advertiser readers attracted more than 600 responses, 60 per cent of which advocated for a smoking ban on the entire event.