A proposal to ban smoking along Crown Street Mall is currently under review by Wollongong City Council.
Greens Councillor and University of Wollongong lecturer Dr George Takacs has called for the council to look into possible outcomes of the ban, pushing for a full enquiry before any decisions are made.
“I have asked the council staff to look at possible positive and negative consequences, and ways of minimising the latter,” Dr Takacs said.
“Presumably they will look at what has happened in other local government areas where such measures have already been introduced.”
The proposal builds on existing legislation adopted in October 2010, which restricts smoking in local parks, children’s playgrounds, outdoor sporting facilities, skate parks and swimming pools.
Lachlan Harris of Wollongong City Council says that he believes there will be little opposition to the ban.
“Other areas in NSW have had similar bans put in place and it’s worth noting that the Cancer Council is a strong advocate for banning smoking in public areas,” he said.
According to the Cancer Council website, more than 35 legal cases in Australia and overseas have seen people compensated for damage to their health caused by passive smoking.
While these cases have been restricted to work places and indoor public areas, there is mounting evidence in favour of a blanket ban for smoking in public areas.
Prolonged exposure to second-hand smoke can increase the risk of lung cancer, heart disease and sudden infant death syndrome.
It can also cause sore throats, nasal symptoms, asthma complications and other chest illnesses.
Dr Takacs believes the ban will help improve Wollongong’s appeal as a thriving metropolitan area.
“If we can create an image of Wollongong where residents are encouraged to lead healthy lifestyles, then people will feel more motivated to do just that,” he said.
“The obvious time to implement such a change would be when the mall refurbishment is complete.
“This will happen around the same time as the West Keira development in the CBD, adjacent to the mall. These measures will add to that new vibe.”
If the ban is successful, Council Regulation and Enforcement Officers would officially be responsible for its regulation, however Dr Takacs believes it will most effectively be enforced by peer pressure.
“Most people know the rules and stick to them, so the most important thing is educating people about the rules,” he said.
“If we do decide to ban smoking, it will gain significant media attention. Coupled with signage and peer pressure, this is generally enough to get 95% compliance.”
Words: Lex Guider
Video: Belinda Cleary