Why do we need to ban smoking in outdoor areas?

There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke.

In adults, breathing second-hand tobacco smoke increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, lung cancer and other lung diseases. It can worsen other illnesses such as asthma and bronchitis. Exposing ex-smokers to other people’s tobacco smoke increases the chance of relapsing to smoking.

For children, inhaling second-hand tobacco smoke is even more dangerous. This is because children's airways are smaller, and their immune systems are less developed. These differences make children more likely to suffer health problems due to second-hand smoke, such as bronchitis, pneumonia and asthma.

Emerging evidence on the impact of smoking on air quality in outdoor locations, such as alfresco cafes, parks and access points to public buildings, has found that under some circumstances, tobacco smoke affects air quality in outdoor locations just as much as indoor locations.

Creating smoke-free outdoor areas supports those who have quit and makes smoking less visible to children and young people.

How will the laws be enforced?

NSW Health is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Smoke-free Environment Act 2000. NSW Health Inspectors are authorised to enforce bans on smoking under the Act.

How do the outdoor smoking laws relate to bans by Local Councils?

The Smoke-free Environment Act 2000 brings consistency across the state ensuring that all families in NSW have access to smoke-free playgrounds, swimming pools and spectator areas of sporting grounds. Many NSW councils, under the provisions of the Local Government Act 1993, have progressively introduced their own smoking bans. Where these bans are in place, they can continue to be enforced by Local Council rangers.

Bans on smoking in outdoor public places compliment or extend many existing bans by local councils under the Local Government Act 1993. Where there is any inconsistency the Smoke-free Environment Act 2000 applies.

Other questions

For answers to questions on specific public places see fact sheets in nine languages including English.

For which buildings are applicable for the ban on smoking within 4 meters of a pedestrian access point, see the smoke-free guide. ​

Current as at: Tuesday 20 November 2012
Contact page owner: Centre for Population Health