Screws on smokers tightened

SMOKERS will be under renewed pressure to curtail their habit after a range of new measures to protect passive smokers comes into force across New South Wales today.

Smoking is now banned within 10 metres of playgrounds, at public sports grounds, at swimming pools, public transport stops and within four metres of entrances to buildings open to the public.

Smoking-related illness accounts for about 5200 deaths and 44,000 hospitalisations each year in NSW and costs about $8 billion annually according to the Minister for Health and Minister for Medical Research, Jillian Skinner.

"The distress that smoking inflicts on families and the burden this imposes on the health system is simply unacceptable," Ms Skinner said.

"Smoking is a scourge which destroys the health of those in its grip and those unfortunate enough to be nearby when they light up".

People could be fined up to $550 for contravening the new rules but a spokesman for the Minister said the emphasis would be on public awareness and education.

Under the new rules, smoking is banned within 10 metres of children's play equipment in outdoor public places, including equipment in local parks and reserves as well as play equipment at fast food outlets, eateries, sporting venues and licensed premises.

The rules do not apply to playground equipment that is in a private backyard or facility; or the rest of the park or reserve in which a playground is situated, unless there are specific local council regulations to this effect.

The ban on smoking in public sports grounds is not a full-time ban. It applies to spectator areas and only when an organised sporting event - child or adult - is being held.

The smoking ban at public transport areas includes bus stops, train platforms, ferry wharves and taxi ranks.

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