3rd October 2011. First published in Issue 2 of the Warragul Citizen, released on the 28th of September 2011.
The Baw Baw Shire Council has dispelled rumours that it has no intention to fine people disobeying smoke free zone signs, however there are no definite rules for issuing fines.
A spokesperson for the council has confirmed that repeat offenders will be fined “as a last resort,” however Baw Baw Shire Mayor Diane Blackwood told the Warragul Citizen that issuing fines is entirely at the discretion of council officers.
“Council officers will consider the relevant circumstances and treat each offence on a case by case basis,” Cr Blackwood said.
Several sources had told the Warragul Citizen that the council was not planning to enforce the ban, leaving it to be entirely self-enforced by the community.
The policy is intended to ultimately become self-enforcing.
No fines have been issued under the trial of the smoke free area policy since its introduction, however five people have been warned with one repeat offender having their details recorded.
Council documents state that one of the primary aims of the policy is to “improve the health of the community.” But in an interview, Cr Blackwood said that the policy is not intended to make people stop smoking.
“It’s the non-smokers’ health that we’re concerned [sic], so we’re not trying to tell smokers that they can’t smoke because obviously it’s a choice,” Cr Blackwood said.
Cr Blackwood said that the policy was intended to “move [smokers] elsewhere.”
The council information on the policy states that in 2007 “12.3 per cent of all deaths in Baw Baw Shire were attributed to smoking,” but this figure does not separate those deaths caused by passive and direct smoking.
Cr Blackwood explained on a separate occasion that “[the] figure is taken from ‘The Big Kill’ a collection of data released by The Cancer Council Victoria in September 2008… It does not extrapolate the deaths caused by passive smoking.
However Cr Blackwood said that the policy will encourage smokers to quit.
“There is evidence to suggest that smoking bans support smokers who are trying to quit as well as reduce their overall cigarette consumption,” Cr Blackwood said.
“Banning smoking in public places removes the triggers that encourage smokers to want to smoke, this can lead to positive health outcomes.”
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