Council making smokers butt out

Smokers prepare yourselves for a big intake of breath: Lismore City Council is investigating smoke-free outdoor areas.

At Tuesday night’s meeting Cr Simon Clough moved a successful motion that staff prepare a report commenting on scope, signage, community engagement, cost, penalties and enforcement of smoke-free outdoor areas. Last year Lismore City Council banned smoking in bus shelters and children’s playgrounds.

Last month Richmond Valley Council introduced a broad-ranging anti-smoking policy that included beaches, parks and other public areas.

“I don’t want to see this as a witch hunt on smokers, I’ve been a very addicted smoker in my past and I know you don’t just stop,” Cr Clough said. “It’s a significant issue, not just one of comfort or trendiness – it relates to poisoning our waterways. We should look at signage, enforcement, should there be penalties and where the areas are where outdoor smoking should be banned. We should look at where people eat, playgrounds, it’s common to have bans 7-10m from doorways of public buildings. I’m also aware we should engage the community on this question, there are lots of people who would like to have a say.”

Cr Graham Meineke said he was certainly not pro-smoking but he didn’t want to see a total onslaught on smokers.

“It is a legal drug, unfortunately, we already have prohibited smoking in parks, bus shelters, playgrounds, and in cars where there are children, what next? Do we stop smoking on footpaths, or the tarmac, or go one step further and say you can’t smoke on roads, that they’re a smoke free environment, as we do with alcohol?” Cr Meineke said. “Some of us didn’t have the courage to erect drug-free signs in Nimbin and that’s about illegal drugs. Why do you want to do the same for legal drugs? I think the policy is strict enough as it is, I don’t see we can go much further.”

Cr David Yarnall said it was a health issue and paraphrased 19th century liberal philosopher John Stuart Mill.

“In a social contract people come together and give up certain freedoms to be rewarded by protection, and within that you don’t harm others or cause a nuisance,” Cr Yarnall said. “Quite obviously second-hand smoke can be seen as harmful and at the moment, all we’re doing is looking at a report.”

Cr John Chant said he did support non-smoking but if smoking was “so damn bad” why didn’t the state government ban it and added if you were sitting near the side of the road you could breathe in fumes from diesel trucks and busses.

Cr Vanessa Ekins gave Cr Chant a quick lesson in basic economics.

“Cigarettes are an example of inelastic demand; it doesn’t matter how much they cost people will buy them and then the government collects a tax from it,” she said.

Cr Clough said it was the most intellectual debate he’d heard at Council.

“Yes, it is a legal drug but it is a poison and that’s the bottom line and, as such, it needs to be regulated in a way that is appropriate,” Cr Clough said.

Council agreed that it wasn’t all smoke and mirrors and voted 7/4 (Crs Meineke, Chant, Peter Graham and Neil Marks against) to investigate whether Council should help people butt out.

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