Smoking – Environmental Tobacco Smoking and the Law

What are the legal issues around smoking?

The large amount of evidence on the harmful effects of passive smoking gathered over the last two decades has led to a number of landmark legal cases. It has also led to the introduction of legislation that prohibits smoking in many enclosed public areas.

There have been more than 35 legal cases in Australia and overseas in which people were compensated for damage to their health caused by passive smoking. Other significant cases led to convictions under Trade Practices and Disability Discrimination legislation. For information about legal cases in Australia, click here.

What does the law say about smoking in public places?

All states and territories have laws that ban smoking in enclosed public places such as restaurants, shopping centres, educational institutions and entertainment venues.

In NSW, the Smoke-free Environment Act 2000 prohibits smoking in a wide range of enclosed public places.

Examples of enclosed public places that are smoke-free under the Smoke-free Environment Act 2000 if they are:

  • Shopping centres, malls and plazas
  • Restaurants, cafes, cafeterias, dining areas and other eating places
  • Schools colleges and universities
  • Professional, trade, commercial and other business premises
  • Community centres or halls and places of public worship
  • Theatres, cinemas, libraries and galleries
  • Trains, buses, trams, aeroplanes, taxis and hire cars, and ferries and other vessels
  • Common areas in hostels
  • Common areas in motels
  • Fitness centres, bowling alleys and other sporting and recreational facilities
  • Childcare facilities
  • Hospitals

Apparent breaches of the Smoke-free Environment Act 2000 can be reported by contacting the NSW Health Department on 02 9391 9000.

What about smoking in work places?

In workplaces, occupational health and safety legislation means that employers have an obligation to protect the health and safety of employees and others who may be at the place of work. The organisation that administers and enforces the NSW Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000, WorkCover NSW, considers environmental tobacco smoke to be a risk to health.

Other Resources

The Law and Justice Foundation of NSW website contains full text of Australian smoking-related legislation.

The Cancer Council New South Wales Publication

When smoke gets in your eyes, nose, throat, lungs and bloodstream: A guide to passive smoking and the law in NSW. Click here to order a free copy.

The WorkCover Authority of NSW

See the WorkCover publication Passive smoking in the workplace – Policy and control.

This Fact Sheet is brought to you courtesy of The Cancer Council NSW

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