Rookverbod in Noord-Sydney vergeleken met Noord-Koreajuli 29, 2019
A respected tobacco control activist who’s been dubbed the “head of the nanny state” says a new smoking ban in Sydney is “unethical” and not based on scientific evidence.
Earlier this week, North Sydney Council became the first authority in the city to outright ban smoking on public streets in its CBD.
However, a University of Sydney academic who played a part in having smoking banned restaurants and pubs over 30 years — retired Professor Simon Chapman — told news.com.au the new ban “reflects people who are misinformed”.
“I heard someone from the council saying ‘passive smoking is deadly’, and that’s true. It does kill people, but only if they are constantly exposed to it over long periods of time,” he said.
“You don’t suddenly get a disease by walking past somebody who’s smoking and occasionally breathing in a bit of smoke.”
In a lengthy blog post, the academic wrote that conflating evidence on passive smoking hazards between indoor and outdoor locations was “simply ignorant”, based on a “voluminous and overwhelming” amount of research into the area.
“So, if it’s not a health issue it simply comes down to banning something because we don’t like it. So do we just start banning things we don’t like?” he said.
“I don’t like hip-hop music but I would never try to stop people playing it in public. The same goes for certain types of dogs or even certain people’s body odours.”
Due to his work in reducing the harm of passive smoking over several decades, Prof Chapman was branded the “head of the nanny state” by a Sydney shock jock, and admits he’s probably the last person people would expect to speak out about the new ban.
However, he believes there are civil liberty issues at stake, even comparing the ban to methods of socialisation used by North Korea.
One of the arguments used to justify the ban is that it will stop children seeing smoking as a normal part of life.
However, Prof Chapman wrote that this line of reasoning is akin to the “worst excesses of totalitarian regimes” in the way that they crack down on “liberties, communication and cultural expression not sanctioned by the state”.
“North Koreans are routinely subjected to such fiats, but many would recoil at the advance of such reasoning elsewhere,” he wrote on his blog.
“If it is fine to tell smokers that they cannot smoke anywhere in public view, why not extend the same reasoning to people wolfing super-sized orders in family fast food outlets, to name just one example?”
A third argument used to justify the North Sydney crackdown is that it will reduce litter.
However, Prof Chapman told news.com.au that a far more effective way to reduce littering and its impacts would be to force tobacco companies to sell cigarettes with biodegradable filters only, or to introduce and properly enforce steep fines for those dropping their butts.
He also added that if North Sydney Council was serious about reducing litter, then it should ban all single-use plastics, rather punishing smokers alone.
North Sydney Mayor Jilly Gibson explained why she had pushed so hard for the ban on 2GB earlier this week.
“This is about setting community standards and encouraging our residents and workers to be part of positive community change.”
There will be a three-month awareness campaign and people won’t be fined until a council review next March — which will assess whether the self-regulated ban is working.
Heart Foundation CEO NSW, Kerry Doyle, told news.com.au the organisation was now making a submission to City of Melbourne council to increase the footprint of its CBD smoking ban.
It is also making a submission to Hobart City Council, which subsequently committed to expanding its CBD smoking ban by April 2020.
“The Heart Foundation congratulates North Sydney Council on its decision to ban smoking in its CBD,” said Ms Doyle.
“It is a significant step forward in protecting the heart health of people who live and work in the area, and we encourage other councils around the country to follow North Sydney Council’s lead on this important issue.”
Smoking is a leading cause of heart disease, which takes the lives of 51 Australians every single day.
“Laws that protect the public from second-hand smoke also help smokers to stay quit and de-normalise smoking behaviour,” added Ms Doyle.
In a statement, Ms Gibson said she’s proud that North Sydney is “leading the way in this important change”.
“There’s been a lot of interest in this proposal and I’m not surprised,” she said. “Second-hand smoke is detrimental to everyone’s health.”