Most people in the community want to be able to enjoy a meal outdoors without breathing in other people’s smoke.
As a group who either have been affected by cancer or who have loved ones who have, we care about our health and want to be able to dine outdoors free of smoke. Some of us are affected by asthma, some of us have children working in hospitality and we all want to take our children and grandchildren out to eat in a safe environment.
Parramatta Council has recently brought in a policy for smoke-free alfresco dining on land leased from council such as footpaths. We’ve also seen NSW Government legislation, introduced to Parliament that will hopefully protect the community from second hand smoke across the state, but the detail is not yet finalised.
Yet a few restaurants in Parramatta continue to oppose the Council smoke-free policy. According to the local press these restaurants are Armani, Kouzina Greco, The Chocolate Room, Saute Thai, Black Angus, Thai in a Box, Café Lime, City Extra and Harry’s Café de Wheels. More recently, the Parramatta Business Freedom Association and Armani restaurant, according to court documentation, challenged the policy through the Land and Environment Court. Last week the court handed down a decision that confirmed Council has the power to ban smoking in footway restaurants.
At the state level, the hospitality industry has a long record of resisting public health initiatives that reduce the harms from smoking. Years ago, pubs and clubs were exempted from indoor smoke-free laws, then they lobbied the State Government for smoking to be allowed to continue in ‘pseudo-outdoor areas’. Over the past few years, hospitality groups have been arguing against smoke-free legislation covering places where people gather to eat and drink. The current action by a small number of restaurants is just one local example of the industry’s continued opposition to measures that protect public health that the community itself has been asking for.
Our fear is that the hospitality bodies and tobacco industry will continue to find ways around new public health measures at local, state, national and even international levels – and we need to tell them that enough is enough! Lots of individual restaurants and cafes are keen to go smoke-free and have adapted as new measures are introduced. Why let a small number of venues dictate the public discussion about this issue?
Parramatta Council went through an exhaustive process over 2 years of community surveys and consultations before introducing this policy. A 2009 survey found 87% of residents supporting alfresco dining areas being smoke-free. In 2011, a survey showed non-smokers spend more than smokers at each visit to a restaurant.
Smoke-free dining protects those who work in restaurants from regular exposure to dangerous second-hand smoke. Smoke-free dining means families can safely enjoy eating out and walk along footpaths adjacent to restaurants without breathing toxic smoke.
We need to send a message to restaurant operators, particularly those in Parramatta, that resistance to smoke-free outdoor dining at a local or state level is futile and goes against community expectations. The vast majority of the community (their customers) want smoke-free dining, to protect public health and enhance the enjoyment of dining out.