Expert backs smoking ban

EXPERT: Dr Steve Begg supports a ban. Picture: MERRAN REED

EXPERT: Dr Steve Begg supports a ban. Picture: MERRAN REED

ANOTHER barrier preventing smokers from sparking up can only be positive, says La Trobe public health expert Steve Begg. 

Vigorous debate has ignited about a ban in Bendigo following a trial by the City of Melbourne, which has seen outdoor dining areas turned into smoke-free zones. 

Dr Begg says anything that makes it harder for people to smoke is good.

One in five adults living in the Loddon-Mallee-Murray area are smokers, a study published last year by the National Health Performance Authority found. 

"In this region - the Loddon-Mallee-Murray - we have a one-and-a-half-year age gap with the state average for life expectancy," he said. 

"We know 10 per cent of this gap is due to smoking, that's a significant portion of ill health that is entirely preventable."

Dr Begg said unlike a ban outlawing smoking when a child was in a car, this ban targeted both smokers and non-smoking members of the public.

"The smoking ban that prevents a person sparking up in cars with a child present clearly targets the protection of the minor," he said.

Human behaviour is very adaptable.

Dr Steve Begg

"But a smoking ban in outdoor dining areas is a combination of protecting the non-smokers and also about creating a stigma around those who do smoke."

When asked if people would find it hard to adjust to the legislation, Dr Begg said people adjusted quickly to new circumstances. 

"Human behaviour is very adaptable," he said.

"They will become willing participants in the new regime."  

Borchelli Ristorante manager Aimee Smith, who has already brought in a smoking ban in part of the restaurant's outdoor dining area, was concerned about how pubs would survive if smoking was banned. 

"I think pubs will struggle," she said. 

But pub owners say they are not concerned about a downturn in business following a ban. 

Rising Sun Hotel owner Pat Sheehan said after a small amount of backlash following a smoking ban inside of pubs in July 2007, patrons acclimatised to the legalisation.  

"We have been through this before (in 2007)," he said. 

"And there was some backlash but it's like that with all new laws.

"It takes a bit of time for people to adjust and then it's back to business as usual."

Bendigo councillors have expressed mixed opinions about the smoking ban. 

But City of Greater Bendigo mayor Barry Lyons said the council would follow the lead from state government.


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