SMOKING close to underage sporting events is now banned following the introduction of State Government legislation, with Ararat Rural City Council soon to erect signage at venues across the municipality to warn users.
The legislation, which also covers smoking near playgrounds, swimming pools and skate parks, was introduced in April and Council will receive $5000 in funding from the Department of Health to cover the cost of installing signs at Council sporting facilities, reserves and playgrounds.
Smoking is now banned within 10 metres (about two car lengths) of a sporting venue that is an outdoor public place during an organised underage sporting event. This ban also includes training or practice sessions to prepare for participation in an organised underage sporting event, and breaks or intervals during the course of the event, training or practice session.
The ban also applies to outdoor dining and drinking areas that are situated within 10 metres of an outdoor public sporting venue during an organised underage sporting event or training session.
"Underage sporting events attract a wide variety of patrons, including families with children and young people and this ban creates a smoke-free environment where children and young people can enjoy sporting and recreational activities without being exposed to harmful second-hand tobacco smoke," Council manager planning and development Joel Hastings said.
"Children and young people are impressionable and are more likely to view smoking as socially acceptable when they regularly see people smoking in different settings.
"Banning smoking in areas frequented by children and young people will help to de-normalise smoking behaviour and discourage children and young people from taking up smoking."
Ararat Rural City Council indicated that compliance with the ban is expected to occur through a public education and awareness campaign and changed community expectations but can be enforced by inspectors, authorised under the Tobacco Act 1987, who may provide information about and, when necessary, enforce the ban, with an infringement attracting a fine of $144.36.
"Sporting venue staff, operators and volunteers are not expected to enforce the ban and are not empowered to do so but may provide a vital role in raising awareness and promotion of the new regulations," Mr Hastings said.
"Consultation undertaken by the Department of Health shows strong community support for banning smoking at public places regularly attended by children and these factors are likely to result in high levels of voluntary compliance with the smoking ban."
Under the law an 'organised underage sporting event' includes the following:
Is planned in advance.
Is organised or intended for, or predominantly participated in by, persons under the age of 18 years.
Is conducted according to established rules by a professional or amateur sporting body or by an educational institution.
May be a one-off event or part of a series of events.
Examples of this include:
An organised underage sporting event: A Little Athletics meet; An interschool/school sporting event participated in by people in their final years of secondary school, some of whom may be over the age of 18; An underage football match run by a regional football league.
Not an organised underage sporting event: An open netball game where some of the players are minors; An open-age football match in which most of the players are over the age of 18; An informal or impromptu sporting activity involving minors at an outdoor public sporting venue.
The ban does not apply: If no underage sporting event is currently underway; to a person at a residential premises (at privately owned homes and land); to a person in a motor vehicle that is driving or being driven past the sporting venue; to a person in an area that is separated from the sporting venue by a road.
Council will erect a mix of permanent and semi-permanent signage at the majority of Council owned or managed reserves and facilities. Signage has been provided to the Grampians Region YMCA to be erected at the Skate Park.
The signage and information package will be made available to reserve managers (special committees) to assist them with the changes and advice and support will be provided by council environmental health and recreation officers.
On a motion from Cr Gwenda Allgood Council will write to all sporting bodies requesting that the new legislation be detailed in their weekly programs.
"Some of the sporting organisations do already have signs up there and they do comply but there are some of them that basically don't have the signs up and may not be aware of this particular issue," Cr Allgood said.
"One venue I was at ... they did have a sign up, a battered one, and people stood underneath it smoking.
"It's really disappointing because you've got children there and you're trying to encourage children to be healthy and not to do this and you see parents doing that sort of thing, and I'm thinking if it was on the program as well there would be nothing they could do.
"And if we ever have cigarette police coming and tapping people on the shoulder we have done as much as we possibly can."