Tobacco Control, Smoking Products and Smoke-Free Environments
Tobacco smoking remains a leading cause of preventable death and disease in Australia. Tobacco smoking is responsible for the death of up to two-thirds of Australian smokers aged 45 years and over, and is a primary risk factor for various cancers, respiratory and cardiovascular disease, and other illnesses.
Tobacco not only harms users, but exposes those around them to harmful second-hand tobacco smoke. Second-hand smoke contains a mixture of particulate matter and thousands of chemicals, many of which are toxic or cancer-causing. There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke.
The risks and benefits of electronic cigarettes are not yet fully known. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends that health authorities act to minimise harm to the community until evidence of safety, quality and efficacy can be produced. The NHMRC is currently funding Australian research into the safety of electronic cigarettes and their effectiveness in helping people to quit smoking.
Although using electronic cigarettes may be less harmful than tobacco in terms of exposure to toxic chemicals, they are unlikely to be completely harmless. Electronic cigarettes may also pose health risks to users and bystanders. Some research has indicated that bystanders can be passively exposed to vapour exhaled by personal vaporiser users, which can include harmful chemicals, particulate matter and, in some cases, nicotine.
The Tobacco and Other Smoking Products Act 1927 defines a smoking product as a tobacco product, herbal product, personal vaporiser or personal vaporiser related product. A personal vaporiser is commonly referred to as an electronic cigarette or e-cigarette. A personal vaporiser related product is a device that is intended to be used as part of a personal vaporiser, such as a heating element, battery, cartridge or mouthpiece for an electronic cigarette. For further information on the definition of smoking product, refer to the Tobacco and Other Smoking Products Act 1927.
The Tobacco and Other Smoking Products Act 1927 places various restrictions on the sale of smoking products in the ACT. Businesses that sell smoking products must comply with the Act.
In the ACT, smoking products must not be:
- supplied to people who are younger than 18 years of age;
- displayed, advertised or promoted at the point-of-sale;
- included in customer reward schemes, promotions, sponsorships or product giveaways; or
- sold by vending machine.
Additionally, cigarettes must not be:
- sold in quantities of fewer than 20 cigarettes;
- sold if they have a fruity, sweet or confectionery-like character and may be attractive to children.
These measures are designed to reduce access to smoking products, including by children, and minimise the harms associated with tobacco and electronic cigarette use.
Under ACT law, smoking is banned:
- in all enclosed public places, including shopping centres, cinemas, office buildings, buses, taxis, restaurants, pubs and clubs;
- in outdoor eating and drinking areas;
- in underage music/dance functions;
- in cars when children under the age of 16 years are present; and
- within 10 metres of play equipment at ACT Government managed play spaces.
These bans apply to the use of all smoking products, including tobacco and electronic cigarettes. Failure to comply with smoking legislation may result in fines up to $750.
Smoke-free policies apply at the Canberra Stadium and Manuka Oval, all ACT Government schools, ACT Government buildings and health facilities.
Certain liquor licensed venues in the ACT, such as pubs, clubs, taverns and bars, may choose to allocate part of their licensed outdoor area as a Designated Outdoor Smoking Area (DOSA). A DOSA is designed to provide patrons with an area to take a smoking break, while protecting the community and hospitality workers from exposure to second-hand smoke.
For further information on legislated smoke-free areas and DOSAs see the Smoke-Free Public Places Act 2003 and Smoking in Cars with Children (Prohibition) Act 2011.
Penalties apply for smoking in an enclosed public place, in an outdoor eating and drinking area, at an underage function, or in a car when children are present. These penalties apply to the use of tobacco products and electronic cigarettes.
Access Canberra is responsible for enforcing the ACT’s smoke-free public places legislation. For more information visit the Access Canberra website. The smoking in cars legislation is enforced by ACT Policing.
What further work is underway to protect the community from the harmful effects of tobacco use and second-hand smoke?
The ACT Government’s Future directions for tobacco reduction in the ACT 2013-2016 was launched on 31 May 2013 (World No Tobacco Day). Future Directions focuses on two key action areas for further development: restricting access to smoking products and restricting places that people can smoke.
ACT Health is currently exploring options under Future Directions to restrict smoking at outdoor public places, including those designed for, or often visited by children and their families.
In late 2015, the ACT Government conducted a public consultation on options for new smoke-free areas at outdoor public places. For further information, please visit the Outdoor Smoke-Free Areas – Community Consultation webpage.
In March 2016 the ACT Government passed legislation that enables the Chief Minister and responsible Minister to jointly declare new smoke-free public places or events in the ACT. The new legislation streamlines the process to establish new smoke-free areas in the ACT, allowing for a more flexible and timely response to community calls for additional smoke-free areas.
Priority will be given to exploring smoke-free options at places used by children and their families, or at places where people congregate in close proximity.
The revised Act took effect on 1 August 2016 and regulates personal vaporisers, including electronic cigarettes, in much the same way as tobacco products.
The revised Act is intended to prevent the uptake of personal vaporisers by children and non-smokers, and protect the public from exposure to second-hand vapour.
For further information specific to electronic cigarettes, please visit the electronic cigarettes webpage.
Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health. Quitting at any age will increase your life expectancy and improve your quality of life.
Smokers wishing to quit are encouraged to talk to their general practitioner. Support and information is also available from the Quitline (13 78 48) or via the Quit Now website.
Where can I get further information on tobacco control, smoking products and smoke-free policies in the ACT?
If you would like further information on the ACT’s smoking product or smoke-free regulations and policies, please contact the Health Protection Service via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (02) 6205 1700.
The ACT Government welcomes community feedback on regulation of tobacco, smoking products and smoke-free issues. Consultations with the community are conducted periodically through the Time to Talk website.
Information on past consultations can be found at the following links: