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Echuca businesses wait for ‘outdoor’ definitions

Echuca business owners have mixed feelings on the new Tobacco Act which bans smoking in outdoor dining areas.

IVY WISE August 6, 2014 3:32am

Planned reforms which ban smoking in outdoor dining areas and entrances to public buildings have been met with a mixed reaction from Echuca venues.

In a bid to protect people from second-hand smoke, the Victorian Government will introduce amendments to the Tobacco Act to ban smoking in outdoor dining areas and around entrances to childcare centres, schools, public hospitals, community health centres, indoor play areas and some government buildings.

Echuca Hotel owner David Connally said if the ban was imposed on the hotel’s outdoor beer garden, it would affect his business.

‘‘Yes, it will be an issue if my beer garden customers can’t smoke,’’ he said.

‘‘Until I see the legislation and and the definition of an outdoor dining area, I would challenge my backyard as being outside dining.

‘‘From 2pm to 5pm, we don’t classify our area as outdoor dining.’’

American Hotel owner Dean Oberin agreed it was early days and the legislation in regards to outdoor dining was open to interpretation.

‘‘It’s quite speculative at the moment, so we really don’t know (if it will affect business),’’ he said.

Mr Oberin said his hotel’s front courtyard was an eating area, but he was unsure if the deck would be classed as dining.

The Star Hotel owner Paul Jarman said the ban on smoking in outdoor dining areas did not come as a big surprise.

‘‘This is just a natural progression of where we’re going,’’ he said.

‘‘From our point of view, it won’t cause any issues. People who still smoke know they can’t smoke where people are eating, so this is just formalising what our venue already does.’’

Although there had been no law prohibiting people from smoking in the venue’s outdoor area, Mr Jarman said the hotel requested people to refrain from smoking and did not put ashtrays outside.

‘‘It will have very little effect at all,’’ he said.

‘‘When the smoking laws first came in, it was always heading to a zero smoking tolerance.’’

Echuca Regional Health nursing director June Dyson said it had a strong commitment to providing a smoke-free environment for patients and staff and smoking was not permitted anywhere on the hospital grounds.

‘‘We believe it is important for health services to provide a strong message that smoking is harmful and, where possible, support patients and staff to quit,’’ she said.

Echuca College principal Chris Eeles and Echuca Primary School acting principal Gayle Bedford agreed the bans would not affect the school as policy stated smoking on or near school grounds or entrances was not allowed.

The reforms will not affect the children, staff or families at Goodstart Early Learning Echuca as it has always had strict non-smoking guidelines, according to centre director Jenny Creighton.

‘‘Our staff are not permitted to smoke on premises, which includes the whole boundary of the property that the centre is on,’’ she said.

The government will soon start consulting with key industry stakeholders to make sure businesses and groups affected by the outdoor dining ban have a chance to discuss its implications.

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