CENTRAL Victorian councils are calling on the state government to outlaw smoking in outdoor dining areas.
A voluntary smoking ban in al fresco dining areas has been rolled out in the Macedon Ranges Shire Council.
A number of local cafes and restaurants are taking up the program and the council is hoping more will follow in the new year.
Macedon Ranges manager of community safety Anne-Louise Lindner said it was part of the shire’s plan to take a proactive stance against smoking in public areas.
“I’m excited we’ve got a few businesses on board,” she said.
“What we’re going to do in January is have a one-on-one chat with business owners.
“Some people said they were worried about losing customers, but where it’s happened in other parts of Australia it hasn’t actually deterred business.”
The initiative makes Macedon Ranges the second council in Victoria to introduce a no-smoking al fresco program, following Baw Baw Council.
A bill was recently reintroduced to state Parliament by Greens member Colleen Hartland to introduce a statewide ban.
Ms Hartland said the government was ignoring the issue, while bans were in place or on their way in every other state or territory in Australia. The City of Greater Bendigo’s manager of environmental health and local laws Susannah Milne said she backed the ban.
“We would support a statewide approach for restrictions,” she said. “We’re waiting and anticipating a statewide approach.”
Figures from a Heart Foundation and Quit Victoria survey found more councils than ever were taking the lead on banning smoking.
A total of 45 councils (57 per cent) had a smoke-free policy in an outdoor area, up from 32 councils (41 per cent) in 2011.
But the report found only 5 per cent of councils were considering a ban on smoking in outdoor drinking and dining areas.
Heart Foundation Victoria chief Kellie-Ann Jolly said the actions of the Macedon Ranges and Baw Baw councils and others were a positive step.
“Throughout 2012, Victorian councils have told us that they’d like to see state government leadership to implement legislation to ban smoking in outdoor dining and drinking areas,” she said.
Ms Lindner said the voluntary smoking ban was the first step in a policy that would be regularly reviewed.
Mount Alexander Shire Council environment director Johan Louw said there were “no immediate plans” for introducing smoking bans, but the council would be keen to work with the state government.