New smokefree outdoor laws: what you need to know!

Victorians are looking forward to the idea of breathing easier when outdoor dining areas become smokefree across the state from August 2017.

So what’s all the fuss about? 

Well, there are currently different examples of smokefree laws in Australia. The key difference between them is whether outdoor drinking (alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks) is covered in the smokefree laws. Not including drinking in smokefree laws, means cafes and restaurants can convert their outdoor areas to drinking (and smoking) only.

Research shows that Victorians expect to be able to socialise outside without being subjected to secondhand smoke, whether they are having a sandwich or just a coffee.

So will they be able to? It depends on which laws the Victorian Government picks.

No smoking symbol Queensland model

Comprehensive outdoor smokefree laws have been the norm in Queensland for a decade. Outdoor areas of cafes and restaurants are smokefree at all times. Smoking is allowed in designated outdoor areas of pubs and clubs, while ensuring there is still somewhere to eat and drink outdoors that is smokefree. No food or drinks are served in the designated outdoor smoking area, to protect the health and comfort of hospitality workers, and the designated outdoor area is separated from the rest of the outdoor space to protect the health and comfort of non-smoking patrons. In Victoria, 88% of smokers support this designated outdoor smoking area idea.

No eating symbol NSW model

Smokefree laws covering only outdoor dining areas were introduced in July 2015, and are causing widespread confusion. This approach means the government needs to define 'dining'. For example, does a packet of chips count as dining? A smoothie? A biscuit with your coffee? The laws have created an enforcement nightmare for hospitality staff. In some cases, venues are deciding to stop serving food outside altogether and devote their outdoor area to drinking and smoking.

In other words, eating is banned in favour of smoking in parts or the whole of the outdoor area or at different times of the day. People who want to eat are forced to go indoors.

Comparing the Qld vs NSW models of outdoor dining


Which model do you prefer?


Tobacco Amendment Bill 2016 (Vic)

On 25 May 2016, the Tobacco Amendment Bill 2016 was introduced into parliament. The Bill introduces smokefree laws similar to those adopted in NSW. The proposed new laws include a ban on smoking in all outdoor dining areas where food (other than pre-packaged food or uncut fruit) is provided on a commercial basis. The laws will also ban smoking at certain food fairs and organised outdoor events.

The new laws will not apply to outdoor drinking areas. Quit Victoria is concerned about the proposed new laws for a number of reasons. In particular, the new laws will not adequately protect hospitality workers from exposure to secondhand smoke, and may create difficulties with enforcement (as has been the case in NSW).

Quit Victoria intends to continue to advocate for the introduction of comprehensive smokefree laws in both outdoor drinking and outdoor dining areas.

If passed by parliament, the proposed new laws will come into effect on 1 August 2017.

For further information about the proposed new laws, see the Victorian Department of Health website on Tobacco Reforms.

Want to do something more? Sign the Cancer Council Victoria's petition

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My son's asthma is triggered by cigarette smoke. We would love to sit outside at cafes and restaurants and enjoy the fresh air and not have to worry about someone smoking nearby. Denise, Toorak

Having a completely smokefree environment would benefit the majority of people dining and drinking in outdoor areas, and provide a clear picture of what is and isn't allowed. Luke Hedger, Cafe owner.

Victorians shouldn't have to put up with other people's cigarette smoke. We must ban smoking in outdoor dining and drinking areas - where people go for a meal, drink and to catch up with friends and family - not where they go to breathe in cancer-causing toxins. Dr Tony Bartone, AMA Victoria President

More than 50% of Victorians say they have avoided sitting outside at a cafe or restaurant in the past year - no matter whether they were eating or drinking - because of cigarette smoke. More than 1 in 5 Victorians say they will visit cafes and restaurants more often if they no longer have to put up with cigarette smoke in outdoor areas. That's an extra 750,000 visits to businesses each year.