Ifs and butts on alfresco smoke ban

A TOTAL ban on public smoking in Knox would be an infringement on civil rights, a Ferntree Gully trader says.

The comments followed calls by a Melbourne City councillor to ban smoking in all public spaces right across the central business district last week.

Newly elected councillor Richard Foster wants the ban to apply throughout the city, from Southbank to North Melbourne. The plan has little appeal, however, for some cafe owners at Mountain Gate shopping district in Ferntree Gully who oppose any such ban in Knox.

Chosen Bean manager and owner Steve Koster said he would not support a smoking ban because it infringed on smokers’ rights.

“They are already relegated to the outside. The smokers say they would then have to sit in a car or in the car park — they might as well stay at home and not get a coffee,” Mr Koster said.

He called it an “infringement on people’s civil liberties” on an already “quite controlled society”. “They make up lots of rules, but like this one would be, they are very rarely enforced.”

However, Euro Bakehouse and Cafe supervisor Sothearith Seung said if smokers butted out, the environment would benefit.

He was hesitant about how exactly the law would be enforced, but is a keen advocate for self-enforcement. “I would be comfortable telling people to stop smoking if they lit up when they weren’t meant to,” Mr Seung said.

Kim’s Cafe and Bakehouse owner Kim Le said customers often asked to smoke outside her shop after buying a coffee. In her three years running the cafe, there had never been any complaints.

“But if they did ban it, they might just go and drink their coffee in their cars,” Miss Le said.

Quit Victoria policy manager Kylie Lindorff said that while the idea was good in theory, there were better ways to tackle the issue. “A total ban on smoking in all public places in an area as large as the City of Melbourne may be difficult to implement,” she said. “Most smokers want to quit but for those that can’t, they do need a space to smoke where they won’t impact on others.”

She said Quit’s focus was currently on banning smoking in outdoor dining and drinking spaces, to bring Victoria into line with other states.

“Smoke-free outdoor dining and drinking areas reduce the visibility of smoking to young people, remove cues that prompt quitters to relapse and protect hospitality workers and patrons from second-hand smoke.”

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Our choice: Steve Koster, second from right, sits down with smokers Ron Metcalf, Lyn Strune and Jan Metcalf outside his cafe. Picture: Wayne Hawkins