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Landmark passive smoking ruling sends a warning

Wednesday 13 September, 2000

A successful law suit against a restaurant by a diner who suffered an asthma attack caused by passive smoking, sends a warning to the hospitality industry.

The Melbourne Magistrates Court today awarded more than $7000 in damages against the restaurant.

Quit Victoria said today's ruling highlights the legal risks for all areas in the hospitality industry, which are not smokefree.

Executive Director Todd Harper says the only option for restaurants to avoid the possibility of legal action was to go smokefree.

He also warned of the ramifications of today's decision for hotels and clubs.

""This ruling sends a wake-up call for the hospitality industry; unless gambling and bar areas go smokefree, they face the threat of legal action from both patrons and staff who suffer health consequences as a result of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.""

""Our greatest concern now is for the occupational health and safety of bar and gaming staff in hotels and clubs, who will not benefit from Victoria's smokefree dining legislation.""

Victoria's smokefree dining legislation, which comes into effect in July next year, does not cover bar or gaming areas in hotel and clubs.

""This case was about a diner's casual exposure to environmental tobacco smoke – staff in bar and gaming areas face daily and prolonged exposure, and it can only be a matter of time before we see further legal action on this front.""

Mr Harper says studies show bar staff face increased health risks as a result of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that environmental tobacco smoke is a significant occupational health hazard for hospitality workers, who face a 50% increased risk of contracting lung cancer which is in part attributable to exposure to tobacco smoke in the workplace.

Studies have shown that exposure to environmental tobacco smoke is four to six time higher for bar staff than other food and beverage workers, and it's been estimated that in an 8-hour shift, bar staff 'smoke' the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes through environmental tobacco smoke.

ends

Further information:

Zoe Furman
Media Communications Manager
Quit Victoria

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