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SA dodges a bullet as Victoria runs out of puff on tobacco control

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A last-minute decision to ban smoking in outdoor dining areas spared the South Australian Government the ignominy of being the joint recipient of the malodorous AMA/ACOSH Dirty Ashtray Award at the AMA National Conference.

In a ceremony before more than 100 guests, AMA Victoria President Dr Tony Bartone was forced to accept the Award – bestowed on the State or Territory that in the past year has done the least to protect its citizens from the hazards of smoking – after the SA Government’s move two days earlier to prohibit smoking in alfresco dining areas and restore funding for anti-smoking campaigns left Victoria alone at the bottom of the nation’s tobacco control league table.

The judges of the annual AMA/ACOSH National Tobacco Scoreboard, now in its  20th year, gave the Victorian Government a C for its failure to crack down on smoking in a wide range of public locations areas including outdoor eating areas, entrances to buildings, hospital grounds, and areas adjacent to ventilation ducts.

In addition, Victoria was castigated by the judges for failure to take specific action on rates of smoking among pregnant women, new mothers and those with a mental illness.

They lamented that the State, which had for many years had been the national leader in tobacco control, had fallen behind the other jurisdictions in its actions to protect Victorians from the effects of tobacco, and needed to reinvigorate its efforts.

By contrast, both the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania were both given an A grade.

The ACT was recognised for its “excellent legislation addressing exposure to passive smoking as well as comprehensive legislation on restrictions on tobacco marketing”.

It was also given credit as the first jurisdiction to withdraw government investments from the tobacco industry and, in addition to a prohibition on all point-of-sale advertising, it is considering limiting the number of retailer licences, restricting tobacco sale hours and jacking up license fees to sell tobacco.

Tasmania received marks for its vigorous anti-smoking campaigns and strong passive smoking laws, and received kudos for some of the most comprehensive and effective laws against smoking in public places and work vehicles in the nation. In addition, the State prohibits all point-of-sale advertising, with no exemptions and has comprehensive bans on retailer and customer reward schemes for tobacco products.

New South Wales, Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory were all awarded a B grade, indicating that while they deserved credit for continuing to act on smoking, they could and should be doing more.

The New South Wales Government lost marks because of its decision to cut spending on mass media anti-smoking campaigns, while the WA Government was told it needed to close a loophole that allowed smoking in beer gardens, the Queensland Government tarnished its record by allowing exceptions to the ban on smoking in licensed venues and investing tobacco companies, an issue that also cost the Northern Territory points.

Adrian Rollins