Good to see smoking bans have been extended

A short break from posting my holiday blogs

From today, smoking bans have been extended to include the entrances to most government buildings, as well as outdoor dining areas.

This is all good. We’re way behind the other states on this. It’s about time non-smokers, who make up the vast majority of the population, had the right to more smoke-free places, including while eating.

The changes also mean e-cigarettes are included in smoking bans.

This is also welcome. Until now, as I understand it, e-cigarettes were not actually banned on and around public transport.

Vapers like to claim it’s harmless. I’m not sure I believe that, but regardless, I still don’t want the fumes in my face.

Smokers

Until 2014, smoking was still permitted in some parts of railway stations, and around tram and bus shelters.

It was only in 2007 that smoking was banned in pubs. It seems outlandish now, but as late as 2001, you could smoke in restaurants.

At one office job I worked at in 1998, people still smoked in the courtyard entrance, and I was told it had only been a couple of years earlier that smoking had been banned inside the office.

To coin a phrase, smokers are a dying breed. In 2015 it was down to 11.9% of Victorians, and hopefully it’ll continue to drop as it’s banned in more places.

Smoke blows around easily, and sometimes it’s difficult to walk along city streets without breathing it in. So I hope the bans will continue to spread. It’s good to see progress.

Adults may have the right to smoke, but increasingly they can’t inflict it on others. And that’s a good thing.

Smoking banned completely from railway stations and tram platform stops from 1st March

From next Saturday, 1st of March, smoking will be banned from the entirety of all railway stations and tram platform stops.

The new arrangements will extend the existing smoke-free zones, which currently only include covered areas of railway platforms and inside covered tram and bus shelters.

โ€œExtending smoke-free areas is good news for public transport passengers and supports other government initiatives that aim to reduce the impact of tobacco and second-hand smoke on the community,โ€ Mr Mulder said.

Government press release

I think this is a good move.

Some people are saying it won’t work, because there’ll be little enforcement. I’m not sure I agree with that. It’s rare to see smoking inside of public transport vehicles, despite little enforcement.

The problem with the current smoking ban in covered areas is that signage is rare, and often so small it’s almost impossible to see — for instance:

Smoking in a bus shelter

The key will be properly promoting the ban, including news coverage (which in evidence today) and much more prominent signage. Enforcement can back these up, but fundamentally if people know the ban exists, I expect in time most will respect it.

I haven’t noticed any in the wild yet, but here’s what the poster for railway stations looks like. Leaving aside the way they’ve mixed their tenses, hopefully signage will be just as prominent on tram stops, and will be improved at bus stops.

Smoke Free poster for railway stations

There is a possible caveat however: it’s unclear if it applies to tram stops which are accessible, but not via a platform — this means Easy Access Stops, including the stops along Swanston Street. And the publicity indicates the ban doesn’t include non-covered areas of bus and non-platform tram stops.

This bill from November 2012 appears to indicate the original intention was a complete ban within 4 metres of any railway station, tram or bus stop, ferry/punt landing or taxi rank (unless just passing by). Maybe any lawyers reading can advise on the status of those clauses.

Update 23/2/2014: Thanks to Mark (see comments), who checked and found the bill above was defeated. Kind of a shame, but perhaps it was seen as not clear enough where the smoke ban would take effect.

In any case, hopefully the change will mean an end to that super annoying habit of some smokers (you know the type) exhaling from their extinguished cigarette after they board the train.

Are mobile phones the new cigarettes?

Fifty years ago the people waiting on this bench might have been smoking — now they’re all fiddling with their phones.

Ripponlea station

It’s long been thought that mobile phones might be replacing cigarettes:

Teenagers may be getting healthier because mobile phones are replacing cigarettes as a symbol of rebellion and fashion.

Clive Bates, Ash director, suggested that the need to stay in fashion by owning a phone may mean less money is available to pay for cigarettes.

— BBC, November 2000

This Age article from 2005 suggested the same thing.

I’m pondering other links:

Phones, like cigarettes, give you something to do with your hands, something to fiddle with.

Phones, like cigarettes, are social. Instead of standing around in doorways chatting to fellow smokers, you’re talking to your friends via social media — wherever they are.

Phones, like cigarettes, can be invasive if used thoughtlessly in a group of people (though having to listen to someone’s boring conversation is less unhealthy and unpleasant than secondhand smoke).

I’d love to reach some profound conclusion here, but that’s all I’ve got. Thoughts?

Some tobacconists are Myki retailers. Should they be?

I suppose trains need signals. And perhaps it’s another move to make Melbourne more European: this Cignall tobacconist in Queen Street is a Myki retailer.

Myki retailer in Queen Street: Cignall Tobacconist

I’m not sure I have a strong opinion on this, but it does seem like an odd match, given smoking is banned on public transport vehicles, is also banned in the undercover areas of stations and stops, and is generally frowned-upon these days.

It may give off mixed messages, having a shop whose primary business is selling smoking products also sell Myki cards and do topups. Are the Transport Ticketing Authority and the government really happy with this association?

There is a convenience store across the street, and a newsagent a few doors up (the latter open weekdays only I think) that could have served as Myki retailers in the immediate vicinity. As it is, according to the online locator tool, the nearest existing Myki retailers are each half-a-block away: a 7-11 in one direction, and a street kiosk in the other.

(Anybody know if other Cignall outlets are also Myki retail agents?)

Down down, smoking is down

Excellent. Smoking rates are continuing to drop, from 21.2% in 1998 down to 15.3% now.

So, how about the next step, government? Now that smoking is almost entirely banned indoors, what about extending smoking bans to include all undercover areas — I’m thinking particularly of under shop awnings.

(If I ran the world, I’d be looking at smoking bans in highly trafficked outdoor areas, such as CBD and suburban shopping centre footpaths. And the following step might be banning it everywhere except in private homes and designated smoking rooms/areas. It’s one thing to have a bad habit; it’s another to have a bad habit that blows poisonous fumes into others’ faces.)