Council smoking ban survey “lip service”, say businesses

This article was written in October 2016, and was originally published here. A follow-up feature article can be found here

Proposed smoking ban around RMIT university was always going to be implemented regardless of outcome of survey, says affected venue owner.

Melbourne City Council plans to make the footpaths around RMIT university a smoke-free area.

A survey on the smoking ban, posted on the City of Melbourne website, received more 3,500 responses, but the results have not yet been reviewed.

Despite the pending results, the ban is “definitely going to be implemented,” says Ben Russell, owner of The John Curtin Hotel.

“The survey was honestly just a bit of lip service, which we all probably predicted,” said Mr Russell.

Mr Russell has been in constant contact with both the Melbourne City Council and the Lord Mayor about how the ban will impact his pub.

“Whether [the ban] is going to have a negative impact on us is yet to be decided,” he said.

Community sentiment is that there will be a smoking ban throughout the city and Victoria, Mr. Russel believes.

City of Melbourne Health Projects Coordinator, Andrew Pell, says that previous smoking bans have had a lot of support from the community.

“No proposals have been rejected yet,” said Mr Pell.

The survey began on the 11th of July, and closed on the 19th of August, 2016.

The findings will be presented to the Future Melbourne Committee on the 6th of December.

A recommendation will then be developed from the report, and a solution put in place.

Mr Pell said that councils have “pushed this ban from the start.”

Several people expressed concern over the ban on the online forum, questioning the ban’s practicality.

“This move will put one of (Melbourne’s) thriving life original music venues in jeopardy,” wrote user Bazbazly.

Two other users discussed how effective the ban would be.

“Ban diesel (& all) motors from the CBD and this regulation would be a nice finishing grace. Unless this is done it will be an empty gesture,” user Dan posted.

“If you are serious about making a change, a whole ban in smoking should be introduced across the entire CBD,” wrote another.

Both Mr Russell and Mr Pell agreed that enforcing the ban would be an issue.

“It’ll be a challenge,” said Mr Pell.

“We need a behavioural change, an educational approach. It needs to be long-term.”

Mr Russell believed a ban would be hard to enforce.

“People smoke at gigs. Having a ban outside a pub is going to be largely ignored,” he said.

Smoke-free areas in Melbourne include the Causeway, Howey Place, Block Place, Equitable Place, Goldsbrough Lane, QV Melbourne, City Square, the Tan and Princess Park.

Street-compliance teams monitor these areas to inform people about the ban.

To date, only one person has been fined for smoking in any smoke-free areas.

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