WIMMERA Health Care Group has welcomed legislation to ban smoking in children’s playgrounds and at sporting events from April next year.
The State Government passed legislation in parliament on Thursday with the support of all parties.
The ban will include public swimming pools, children’s playground equipment, sporting venues during underage events and skate parks.
It comes after two National Health Performance Authority reports released last week found the Grampians region was Australia’s smoking captial.
The Grampians has an adult daily smoking rate of 28 per cent, well above the national rate of 16 per cent.
Wimmera Health Care Group respiratory nurse educator Heather MacDonald supported the move.
“There is good evidence from the asthma association to suggest that smoking causes more frequent asthma attacks,” she said.
“Children exposed to cigarettes are more likely to develop asthma, particularly in utero, and have much less control over their asthma, meaning they are more likely to be admitted to hospital.
“Tobacco smoke is a key trigger for fatal asthma attacks and at sporting grounds in particular, there is a lot of exposure to cigarettes.”
Ms MacDonald said she hoped the ban would encourage more people to try and quit.
“There are not many sporting people who smoke anymore but maybe it will increase the general awareness of the negative effects,” she said.
“Even though there is a high incidence of smoking in our region, as studies have shown, the majority of people don’t smoke and limiting their exposure to cigarettes is a good move.
“The more awareness there is the more active smokers will think about quitting.”
Ms MacDonald said people trying to quit smoking needed the support and encouragement of others.
“Smoking is still legal and we have to remember that,” she said.
“Our approach is to offer support to people who would like to quit smoking and not condemn them for it.”
Minister for Health David Davis said smoking was a huge drain on the community.
“About 4000 lives are lost each year in Victoria as a result of smoking and it costs $2.4 billion in direct health costs and lost productivity every year,” he said.
“Smoking will be prohibited at or within a 10-metre radius of outdoor children’s playground equipment and skate parks.
“Smoking will also be banned at or within a 10-metre radius of outdoor public sporting venues during organised underage sporting events.
“To ensure Victorians are informed about these new bans, we will undertake an extensive public awareness and community education campaign and make ‘no smoking’ signs available for councils to install.”
The legislation will come into effect from April 1, 2014.