Smoke-free Outdoor Areas Policy

Further update February 20, 2013 :

Council has passed an amendment to its Smoke Free Outdoor Areas Policy which now makes outdoor dining areas a smoke-free environment.

At its meeting on February 13, 2013, Wingecarribee Shire Council amended the policy adopted last year by voting to extend it to cover outdoor dining areas on Council-managed lands (e.g. footpaths). Council voted in line with the proposal recommended in the report from Council officers, with only one Councillor dissenting from the decision.

Outdoor dining areas will now become smoke-free in two stages : 
From July 1, 2013, the policy will apply to all Council-managed businesses throughout the shire, excluding those located in Corbett Plaza.
From November 8, 2013, the policy will be effective for all Council-managed businesses located in Corbett Plaza.
(This is being done so that uniform licence conditions can apply to all four businesses in the plaza at the same time.)

The Southern Highlands Cancer Leadership Committee welcomes this Council decision and congratulates all those Councillors who voted for it.
The report to Council followed a period of community consultation which indicated that, of the 11 businesses who responded to being consulted, 6 were in favour of the ban, and that, of the 17 responses from the community, 16 of them were in favour of making dining areas a smoke-free environment. In addition, the report took note of the fact that the NSW Government had legislated to extend smoke-free areas to include outdoor dining from July, 2015. 

Our committee's response to the community consultation was one of the 16 in favour and the full text of our submission to Council is published below :

Committee submission on Draft Smoke Free Outdoor Areas Policy WSC Reference: 5450/28.1

The Southern Highlands Cancer Leadership Committee recognises the considered approach shown by Wingecarribee Shire Council in consulting with community and businesses on whether to make outdoor dining areas on Council managed lands smoke-free.

Our Committee supports an extension of Council’s current smoke-free outdoor areas policy to include so-called ‘al fresco’ areas when licence agreements are renewed or newly created.

In the light of the stated intention of the NSW Government to legislate on this matter by 2015, timely action now by our Council will give all affected businesses and their smoking patrons the opportunity to phase in the coming changes in a more measured way.

This whole question is really an issue of the health of individuals. Medical research has identified the harmful effects that can result from inhaling second-hand smoke, which contains chemicals known to be toxic or carcinogenic. These negative effects include, among others : lung cancer, heart disease, a worsening of asthma and acute respiratory infections in children. Any person, whether adult or child, sitting in an outdoor dining area should be able to do so without running the risk of inhaling second-hand smoke and adversely affecting their health.

Much has been said recently about “smokers’ rights”. However, being able to smoke tobacco is not an unrestricted right. Just as our right to drive a car or to carry a firearm is subject to law and to regulation, so is the smoking of tobacco. Any limits on any of these rights should reflect current community standards and will alter over time to remain in line with community attitudes.

No-one has unfettered rights. The use of tobacco has to be viewed within the context of its effects on other people. On this particular matter, attitudes have clearly changed : people are no longer prepared to breathe in second-hand smoke from someone sitting at an adjacent table.

Some business owners may be concerned that smokers would not be prepared to patronise ‘al fresco’ dining areas if they could no longer smoke there. Possibly so, although the evidence on this is not clear-cut. But there would be increased business from those who will return to eating a meal or enjoying a coffee in plazas or on sidewalks after they become smoke-free. In any event, we know that smokers will adapt and will choose other options : they may wait until they leave the dining area or may temporarily leave it for a time, if they cannot wait. Some may take it as the final incentive they need to give up the nicotine habit altogether.

Council plays an important role in promoting a healthy lifestyle and protecting the health of people in the Wingecarribee. There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke, so the risks involved in continuing to allow smoking in these areas are too great.

Grahame Hackett
for the Southern Highlands Cancer Leadership Committee
5th June, 2012.

Update February 27, 2012 :

We have now seen a successful completion of this matter ! 
Thank you to all those who made submissions to Council on this local issue. Your views have been listened to. 

Council staff involved in developing the policy obviously gave careful consideration to the issues, both before and after the community consultation, and the result was a reasonable compromise.

Wingecarribee Shire Council then met on February 22, 2012  and passed a resolution to put in place a sound policy for smoke-free outdoor areas. The motion was passed unanimously, all eight Councillors who were present voting in favour.

The support for the new policy shown by all six Councillors who spoke in favour of the motion was clear evidence of the strong resolve of this Council for action on this important issue of community health.

The five recommendations passed at the meeting were (in summary) :-
1)  that the draft policy (revised in the light of community consultation) be adopted
2)  that the new policy be incorporated into Council's Policy Register; that it be made available to the public via Council's website; and that it be reviewed within one year 
3)  that the Council Events policy be amended to show Council commitment "to promote and encourage smoke free public events"
4)  that there be a public consultation in relation to outdoor dining on Council-managed land
5)  that the Cancer Council NSW "Clear the Air" campaign be supported.

Full details of the policy, including the outdoor areas covered by the smoking ban, will be found on Council's website and will be announced via a media release and in Council notices in local newspapers; signage will be erected.

Background :

The information below will provide the background to this local issue which is now resolved due to the decision of Wingecarribee Shire Council.

Three important updates for October 2011 have been added at the foot of this item to respond to Council's draft policy.

During 2010, the Southern Highlands Cancer Leadership Committee gave attention to the health issues around second-hand tobacco smoke and expressed their concern that a satisfactory policy was not in place to create smoke-free outdoor areas in the Wingecarribee.

While Wingecarribee Shire Council already has a policy on this matter, that policy currently only places a ban on smoking at children’s playgrounds.

Having decided to advocate a broadening of the ban to include more types of outdoor areas, we approached Council staff to see if the policy could be revised. It was found that staff were in the process of drawing up a revision of the policy.

Accordingly, our Committee wrote to all Councillors and to the General Manager stressing the risks to the health of children and adults who inhale second-hand smoke in open areas.

The text of our letter is reproduced below.

Re : Council policy on Smoke-free Outdoor Areas

Council staff have indicated that a new policy is being prepared on smoke-free outdoor areas in the Wingecarribee. This initiative is to be greatly welcomed.

Community attitudes have altered now that people are more aware of the harmful effects of exposure to second-hand smoke (SHS), which contains at least 250 chemicals known to be toxic or carcinogenic. These effects include, among others : heart disease, lung cancer, exacerbation of asthma conditions, and acute respiratory infections in children.

Parents and the wider community these days do expect to enjoy smoke-free areas. Our Council has an important role in protecting people’s health and preventing negative effects on the environment as well (e.g. fire hazards; cigarette butts in the water system).

Our committee requests that Council declare the following outdoor areas smoke-free and take appropriate steps through media, signage, inspections, etc to communicate this policy :

  • Children’s playgrounds
  • Council parks, reserves and swimming pool areas
  • Sporting facilities, ovals and playing fields
  • Transport waiting areas (e.g. bus stops, taxi stands)
  • Council-organised events and functions.

Some important reasons for an improved policy :

  • Everyone attending the above areas - especially infants, children and expectant mothers - should be able to enjoy these facilities without running the risk of inhaling second-hand smoke and adversely affecting their health.
  • The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council report on “The Health Effects of Passive Smoking” showed that infants and children exposed to SHS face an increased risk of : respiratory illness, impaired lung function, asthma, middle ear infections, SIDS, croup and bronchitis.
  • The US Surgeon General’s report in 2006 stated that there is no risk-free level of exposure to second-hand smoke.
  • Australians are now aware that the tobacco industry deliberately kept secret for decades the results of their own research studies on the harmful effects of second-hand smoke.

Update : At this time, the draft policy on this matter has still not been taken to a Council meeting.

Update October 8, 2011 :

After countless telephone calls to Council staff on this matter, and interviews with key staff, the draft Smoke Free Outdoor Areas Policy is now available. It has been placed on the business paper for the meeting of Wingecarribee Shire Council to be held on October 12.

The recommendation to be considered at that meeting is that the draft policy be endorsed by Council for public exhibition to obtain feedback for a period of no less than 28 days.

If that motion is passed, interested parties will then have an opportunity during this period of community consultation to send to Council their views on the draft policy. Naturally the Southern Highlands Cancer Leadership Committee will be making a submission, but it is of utmost importance that people who agree with our position on the issue of smoke-free outdoor areas also make an individual submission on their own behalf. In that way, Council will be informed of the true feeling of residents on this matter.

Following the period of consultation, the feedback will be assessed by staff and a final policy recommendation will be put before a subsequent Council meeting.

Update on October 19, 2011 :
Council’s draft policy on Smoke-free Outdoors Areas was placed on their website this morning as part of making it available for public exhibition for a minimum of 28 days. 

Submissions must be received by close of business 4.30pm on Friday November 18.

The draft policy can be found on the Council website by clicking on the link below :

Shortly, the Southern Highlands Cancer Leadership Committee will be giving on this webpage its view of the Council draft policy and providing some suggestions on how the draft could be improved. We will then be encouraging everyone to make a written submission on the draft and giving full details on how one can be made.

Update on October 23, 2011 :

The Committee recommends that the draft policy should be supported and urges people of a like mind to let the Council know their views.

Some ideas for a submission have been suggested in the form of a “template”. People can either create their own wording for a submission or they can select the ideas in the template which they agree with and use them to compose their own letter to Council. The template can be downloaded as a Word document.

Template Submission Template Submission (28 KB)

(If pressed for time, or not inclined to draft your own letter, you can print the one-page template in its entirety.)

Be sure to sign and date your letter and to provide your home address as well.

Submissions must be received by close of business 4:30pm on Friday, November 18, 2011. All submissions and feedback must quote the reference number 5450/28.1. See the address given below.

Apart from making a submission to the General Manager on this matter, people are also free to contact any of the Councillors. Their contact details are given at

The draft policy can be found on the Council website by clicking on the link below :

The full details as supplied by Council on their website are as follows :

Council at its meeting held 12 October 2011 resolved to endorse the draft Smoke Free Outdoor Areas Policy and place the draft Policy on public exhibition for a minimum period of 28 days.

The draft Policy can be viewed using the links below :
Draft Smoke Free Outdoor Areas Policy (PDF, 92Kb)
Report to Council Smoke Free Outdoor Areas Policy (PDF, 48Kb)

Alternatively, a copy of the draft Policy may be viewed at Council’s Civic Centre, Elizabeth Street Moss Vale, Monday to Friday, 8:30am - 4:30pm.

Council is seeking written submissions or feedback in relation to the draft Policy.

Submissions will be received until close of business 4:30pm on Friday, November 18, 2011.
All submissions and feedback must quote the reference number 5450/28.1.

Written submissions may be forwarded to:
Draft Smoke Free Outdoor Areas Policy
WSC Reference: 5450/28.1
General Manager

Wingecarribee Shire Council 

PO Box 141
Moss Vale 2577

Submissions may be forwarded by email to:
Draft Smoke Free Outdoor Areas Policy
WSC Reference: 5450/28.1
General Manager

Wingecarribee Shire Council