SPORTS clubs would be offered incentives to introduce smoking bans, under a proposal aired by Warrnambool’s mayor Michael Neoh.
Clubs would have the option of getting a substantial discount on their lease fees for venues owned or maintained by the council.
The council is paid more than $53,000 a year in sports venue lease fees and incentives would be worth several thousand dollars to many clubs.
Cr Neoh aims to put his suggestion to colleagues soon with a view to having the issue factored into the upcoming budget.
It follows a recent state government call for comments on its push to ban cigarette smoking at swimming pools, children’s play areas and junior sports events.
Cr Neoh told The Standard yesterday there was unanimous support among councillors to investigate having smoking bans at council facilities.
However, he said his personal view was that an incentive method would be easier to implement than a compulsion approach.
“My idea would provide opportunity for clubs and committees to be proactive rather than us being the policeman,” he said.
“Council subsidises sports facilities significantly and it seems counter-productive to allow smoking on council-subsidised grounds.
“I’m not saying people can’t smoke, but if we are promoting healthy and family-friendly environments it’s inconsistent to allow players and officials to smoke in that venue.”
Cr Neoh said he hoped the policy could be introduced gradually through incentives and then be fully implemented by the end of the current council four-year term as part of the health and well-being plan. He recognised efforts of Cr Peter Hulin in pushing strongly for smoking bans in the past few years and said community mood was now ripe for change.
“If we are going to do this we need to start now and I’d like to think this council could leave a significant legacy in health promotion,” the mayor said.
A month ago Victorian Health Minister David Davis said the Tobacco Act would be amended to protect the health of children and reduce smoking rates.
“As well as smoking bans at children’s playgrounds, bans will be extended to public swimming pools and sea baths, children’s sporting grounds and other recreational areas such as skate parks,” Mr Davis said.
However, Cr Neoh argued that plan would be ineffective because children’s venues were sometimes adjacent to adult venues where smoking was allowed.