Monash smoking ban: Some ifs and butts

CAFE owners in Monash have signalled their support for a public smoking ban in the city but only if the state follows suit.

In the past traders have argued that the ban, which would make it unlawful to light up in outside dining areas, would hit businesses hard. 

But some say that if the ban were extended across Victoria, it would provide a "level playing field" that would stop customers flocking to suburbs with no restrictions.

Craig Lane, Glen Waverley Traders Association's vice-president and owner of Shine Cafe, Bar and Lounge, said a "level playing field" was essential for traders.

"We would only support a smoking ban if it were a statewide ban," he said. "It needs to be thoroughly thought out before it's done because it will affect a lot of businesses and people."

But Clayton councillor Bill Pontikis, who owns Cafe Le Panto, called for a balance to be struck between traders and smoking legislation.

"I believe a lot of restaurants and a lot of cafes and alfresco areas have spent a lot of money to set up their restaurants, catering for that type of clientele [smokers]," he said. "I think we need to also have an open mind and understand where those business owners are coming from.

"I'm a non-smoker and I've been so all my life, so I understand there's health concerns and I understand that it's a big problem in the community. 

"But at the same [time], people have that choice to smoke. I can't understand how we can actually put a blanket rule down and tell people that they can't smoke out in the public when it's not illegal."

The debate was triggered by a push from Melbourne councillor Richard Foster for an outright ban on smoking in public places within the city's central business district.

Monash mayor Micaela Drieberg said the lack of legislation had led to varying smoking policies across the state.

"So that we have consistency, we need the state to come in and introduce the statewide legislation that is in line with the rest of the country," she said. " I personally would love to see outdoor dining included in those [smoke-free] areas."

She rejected concerns that a public ban would adversely affect traders. "I would assume that businesses introduced awnings and outdoor dining areas for all their patrons to enjoy, not a select few. 

"And again if we look at interstate experience and international experience, there was either no impact or a positive impact because the 80 per cent of people who refuse to have a smoky latte came back in droves."

QUIT Victorian policy manager Kylie Lindorff said: " A statewide ban is necessary to bring Victoria in line with every other state in Australia and to provide a consistent approach across the state."

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