State 'lags' on outdoor smoke bans

THE state government has been accused of ''tinkering around the edges'' after announcing a ban on smoking at children's playgrounds but failing to introduce bans in outdoor dining areas.

Health Minister David Davis said on Thursday that the government would ban smoking at playgrounds, skate parks and public swimming pools across Victoria in new laws aimed at protecting children.

The government last November acted to ban smoking between the flags or within 50 metres of them on patrolled beaches.

Quit Victoria executive director Fiona Sharkie said smoke bans in outdoor dining areas were ''the main game'' that would reach the greatest number of Victorians.

Greens MP Colleen Hartland said the government was dragging its feet on smoke bans in outdoor dining areas, now in place or under way in other Australian states or territories.

A coalition of Victorian health groups including the Australian Medical Association, Cancer Council, Heart Foundation and Quit 10 months ago recommended the government introduce such bans.

''The Baillieu government is trying to hide the fact that it is a laggard by taking piecemeal actions,'' Ms Hartland said.

''The government is tinkering around the edges, instead of making a bold commitment to help protect the lives of Victorians from the risks of smoking.''

West Gippsland's Baw Baw Shire is the only council that has introduced bans on smoking in outdoor dining areas after a year-long trial.

Ms Hartland said statewide laws were needed to avoid confusion created by local councils striking out on their own to introduce bans, a position supported by the Municipal Association of Victoria. She has introduced a private member's bill to Parliament to ban smoking in outdoor dining areas in Victoria, which is due to be debated in the next few months.

Mr Davis said his government was ''looking very closely'' at smoking bans in outdoor dining areas and would make further announcements in future.

He said he hoped the playground smoke bans would take effect by the end of the year, following consultation with local councils and sporting groups.

Mr Davis said the laws would be enforced by local governments and people breaching them could face fines of $140.

''This is a further, sensible step in a long line of tobacco initiatives,'' he said.

Cancer Council Victoria chief executive Todd Harper said a smoke ban in outdoor dining areas would have a dramatic effect on smoking rates.

Ms Sharkie said outdoor smoking bans would prevent exposure to secondhand smoke, help people who had quit smoking avoid relapsing, and ''de-normalise'' smoking.

About 4000 Victorians die each year from smoking-related illnesses.

This story State 'lags' on outdoor smoke bans first appeared on The Age.