Smokers at Easter festival prompt community figureheads to call for tobacco-free events

Bendigo leaders “appalled” at the number of smokers along the Easter parade route this year want organisers to consider making the event tobacco-free. 

Eppalock ward councillor Yvonne Wrigglesworth watched the parade from Bridge Street, and said the smoking was more pronounced that in previous years. 

She feared for the health of children exposed to passive smoke for the parade’s duration.

"For such a family-orientated crowd, i was surprised by the number of children who were among the smokers, for two or more hours," she said.  

Ms Wrigglesworth said she intended to speak with other councillors about restricting smoking at public events in Bendigo, as well as the idea of setting up designated smoking areas. 

But it was also up to Bendigonians to role model healthy behaviour, she said.

"Quite often, in big crowds, we can follow by example and provide example."

The councillor took to Twitter on Sunday to lament passive smoking at the festival and quickly gained support from a number of followers.

Among those to also voice concern about tobacco use at the event was Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services president Abhishek Awasthi, who labelled it "disgusting" and "appalling".

Mr Awasthi said it was inconsiderate of smokers to light up in close proximity to other community members, especially children, and believed it appeared unattractive to tourists visiting for the holiday season. 

Mr Awasthi hoped a designated smoking space could be established at Easter and eventually become a year-round fixture to keep tobacco smoke off Bendigo streets. 

"I know its very hard to implement, but there are examples around the world where smoking is banned in public places," he said.

He envisaged the city becoming renowned for its anti-smoking stance.  

Thirteen per cent of Bendigo residents are smokers, about the same as the statewide smoking population, a VicHealth indicators survey results released last November found. 

Smoking tobacco is recognised as one of the largest preventable causes of death and disease in Australia, killing an estimated 15,000 Australians and costing the country $31.5 billion in health expenses annually.