Smoke-Free Environments – Information for Businesses

Smoking is banned under the Smoke-Free Public Places Act 2003 in all enclosed public places, in outdoor eating and drinking areas, and at underage functions.

Smoking is also banned in cars where children are present under the Smoking in Cars with Children (Prohibition) Act 2011 .

These bans apply to all smoking products, including tobacco and personal vaporisers (e.g. electronic cigarettes). Under ACT legislation, the term ‘smoke’ refers to use of a personal vaporiser (e.g. electronic cigarette or vape pen) or tobacco product.

The bans are intended to protect people from exposure to second-hand smoke and to prevent uptake by children and non-smokers. There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke.

Enclosed public places

The Smoke-Free Public Places Act 2003 bans smoking in all enclosed public places, including shopping centres, cinemas, office buildings, buses, taxis, restaurants, pubs and clubs.

To be considered ‘enclosed’, a public place (or part of a public place) must have:

  • an overhead cover; and
  • be 75% or more ‘enclosed’.

A public place that is located inside another public place that is enclosed – such as a food court inside an enclosed shopping mall – is ‘enclosed’.

Outdoor eating and drinking areas

Under the Smoke-Free Public Places Act 2003, smoking is banned at all outdoor eating and drinking areas in the ACT. This ban applies to all smoking products, including tobacco and personal vaporisers. 

An outdoor eating and drinking area is:

  • a public place where tables or chairs are provided for customers to consume food or drink purchased from an on-site service such as a restaurant, café, food van or take-away store; or
  • a liquor licensed outdoor area at a venue such as a pub or club.

To comply with the law, the owner or person in charge of a premises at which there is an outdoor eating and drinking area must ensure that:

  • patrons do not smoke in the outdoor eating and drinking area;
  • ‘no smoking’ signage is prominently displayed; and
  • the tables and chairs in the outdoor area are clearly identified as being part of the premises, either through a plan displayed in the area or signs/markings on the tables and chairs.

The Outdoor Eating and Drinking Areas in the ACT: A Guide for Businesses has been prepared to assist licensees to understand their obligations under the Smoke-Free Public Places Act 2003

Exceptions for certain licensed premises

Certain liquor licensed venues such as pubs, clubs, taverns and bars may choose to allocate up to 50 per cent of their licensed outdoor area as a Designated Outdoor Smoking Area (DOSA), in which smoking is permitted.  A DOSA is designed to protect the community and hospitality workers from exposure to second-hand smoke, while still allowing patrons to smoke in a set area.

The following rules apply in all DOSAs:

  • no food or drink service (this includes the clearing of glasses while someone is smoking in the DOSA);
  • no consumption of food;
  • no people under 18 years of age;
  • no gaming machines; and
  • no entertainment is to be offered or directly accessible (including televised sporting events).

All businesses with a DOSA must have a Smoking Management Plan.  This plan outlines the location of the DOSA and strategies to manage smoking at the premises to reduce harm from environmental smoke.  A Smoking Management Plan Template is available to assist businesses in the development of a valid Smoking Management Plan.

Underage functions

Smoking is prohibited at all underage music/dance functions under the Smoke-Free Public Places Act 2003.  

An underage function is a function that is:

  • principally for the playing of live or recorded music, i.e. music or dance events;
  • predominantly organised for persons under 18 years of age;
  • is open to the public, or a section of the public (with or without payment); and
  • takes place in an area other than a private residence.

Examples include blue light discos, live band performances at a secondary school or an outside dance party for under 18 year olds.

A Visitor’s Guide to Tobacco Control and Smoke-Free in the ACT

Visitor’s Guide has been produced to assist restaurants, pubs, clubs and cafes let their patrons know about tobacco control in the ACT. The guide defines ‘smoking product’ and outlines key smoke-free regulations in the ACT (e.g. enclosed public places).  Copies of the Visitor’s Guide can be downloaded here or ordered free of charge from the Health Protection Service via email at hps@act.gov.au or call (02) 6205 1700.

New Smoke-Free public places

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.

To ensure a balanced approach to implementing new smoke-free areas, Ministers will undertake community consultation prior to making each declaration. Ministers will also have due regard to factors such as: the frequency with which the place or event is visited by children or families, the impact on community health, costs and benefits of making an area smoke-free, and measures to promote compliance. 

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.

Information on any new smoke-free areas established via a declaration will be made publically available, including on this website and the ACT Legislation Register. Community education and outreach activities will be undertaken to ensure that affected businesses are aware of any new smoke-free areas and their associated obligations. 

Further information

For further information on smoke-free regulation, including enforcement of the Smoke-Free Public Places Act 2003, please visit the Access Canberra website.

For policy enquiries, please contact the Health Protection Service via email at hps@act.gov.au or call (02) 6205 1700.