Smoke-free zone praised by foundation

The Heart Foundation is optimistic that residents of the Gunnedah Shire will soon be enjoying a smoke free Central Business District that no longer poses a risk to their heart health.

Gunnedah Shire Council was due to consider a report that follows the public exhibition of a draft smoke free environment policy that would see a large section of the CBD become a smoke free zone, at its ordinary meeting on Wednesday night.

The heart health charity claims the introduction of a smoke fee zone will make a contribution to helping reduce the harm and suffering caused by the high rate of smoking in the Gunnedah area, currently sitting at 22.3/100 population (compared to 16.2/100 for NSW)[1].

Penny Milson, from the Heart Foundation in Tamworth said health problems and disease, including heart disease caused by second hand smoke exposure is an entirely preventable public health problem.

“The benefits of smoke-free zones actually go beyond reducing community exposure to second hand smoke. Smoke-free zones support smokers who have recently quit or trying to quit, contribute to a cleaner and safer environment and send a clear message to children that smoking is not normal.

“We congratulate Gunnedah Shire Council on taking this important step that will help to protect the health of the community including those most vulnerable to tobacco smoke like children, pregnant women and those living with a chronic disease,” Ms Milson said.

The Heart Foundation is also hopeful that Council will proceed with the inclusion of e-cigarettes in their policy.

“E cigarettes are a relatively new product and there is insufficient evidence available to assess their safety. E cigarettes represent a real threat to the hard-won achievements of health advocates over the last 40 years to beat smoking.

“By reducing the visibility of e cigarettes, we can help to de-normalise these potentially harmful products. We do not want to return to the days when smoking was so ubiquitous that children thought everyone smoked,” Ms Milson said.

Since 2007, the Heart Foundation has observed outstanding leadership among several regional Councils in NSW in introducing smoke fee zones despite a higher rate of smoking in rural areas (compared to metropolitan) and pressure from the tobacco industry.

Tamworth Regional Council was the first Council in Australia to include e-cigarettes within a smoke free environment policy which came into effect in January 2016.