Quit Victoria says bars and gambling venues in Victoria must go smokefree immediately to avoid damages claims from patrons and staff.
The call comes following a ruling today by a Supreme Court jury in New South Wales awarding $466,000 to a former bar worker who developed throat cancer from exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.
Quit Victoria Executive Director Todd Harper says today's ruling highlights the legal risks for all areas in the hospitality industry which are not smokefree.
""This is a landmark case in passive smoking litigation,"" Mr Harper said.
""This is a time bomb for the hospitality industry - they must address the issue or be prepared to face the consequences.""
This case follows a successful claim last year by Victorian woman Andrea Bowles who sued a Melbourne restaurant over an asthma attack brought on by passive smoking.
""A study released by Quit recently found that while over 70% of Victorian workplaces have total smoking bans, workers who are least likely to be protected by smoking bans in their workplaces are those in hotels and gambling venues,"" Mr Harper said.
Environmental tobacco smoke is a proven cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, and is an important risk factor for heart disease and asthma.
Mr Harper said recent research by the Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer and even tobacco company Philip Morris, shows the public wants smoking restrictions.
""Venues ignoring the wishes of their patrons do so at their own risk,"" he said.
""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.""
Mr Harper says smokefree dining legislation, which comes into effect in Victoria in July next year, does not cover bar or gaming areas in hotel and clubs.
""Staff in bar and gaming areas face daily and prolonged exposure to tobacco smoke, 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.
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