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Stub that out: Sydney council weighs CBD-wide smoking ban

A radical plan to ban smoking within the entire CBD of North Sydney has divided residents, with some welcoming it and others calling it “excessive”.

This week, North Sydney Council unanimously approved a recommendation by the Mayor, Jilly Gibson, to turn the area’s streets, squares and parks into smoke-free environments.

The proposal will be put out for public consultation, and, if supported by a majority of locals, could come into force as early as Christmas, making North Sydney one of Australia’s first smoke-free business districts.

The ban will work similarly to existing ones in Brett Whiteley Place and Elizabeth Plaza. Both areas in North Sydney have been smoke-free since 2016. As in those areas, it will rely on self-regulation and goodwill, meaning smokers won’t receive a fine for lighting up.

Despite that, residents are already expressing strong views on the plan. Speaking at North Sydney train station, Jake, a 23-year-old student who travels to the area regularly, said he didn’t agree with it.

“They’re better to at least leave some smoking spots, otherwise I will treat it the same, because I won’t get fined.”

Peter, a local bus driver, said: “I can see why they’re doing it, but a whole ban is a bit excessive. It’ll probably be enough to encourage me to smoke a bit less, but I’ll see if that actually happens.”

However, one local woman said: “I think it’s a great idea. You can see just by looking at the ground that it’s cleaner here than other areas, and the smoke is toxic, so I’m all for it. People will probably still smoke but it might help.”

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A North Sydney Council spokesman said that the specific dimensions of the affected area hadn’t yet been drawn up, but public consultation would be undertaken to determine community support for making the whole CBD smoke-free.

A 60-day consultation exercise is set to kick off some time in October. It will involve use of the council’s Your Say website, where people can respond to surveys, write comments and make suggestions.

“There will be every opportunity, whether it’s online or in person or by mail, for people to give feedback, and then it will go back to council and a final decision will be made,” said the spokesman.

He added: “There won’t actually be fines handed out or anything like that. It [the goodwill system] works well at Brett Whiteley Place and Elizabeth Plaza, which are in the CBD. They’ve both been self-regulated since July 2016 and that’s been a great success.

“Can we expect 100 per cent of people to abide by it? Probably not. Even if we get 50 per cent or 60 per cent of people doing it, that’s a good result if it means more smokers off the street.

“Obviously we would like to think that people would quit. But we live in the real world; there’s no guarantee that a single person would quit if it goes ahead.” – @ThomasTobler1