FOOTY and netball fans will have to butt out for next season under a bold initiative by Warrnambool City Council to stamp out smoking at sports grounds.
It is likely to be the first council in Victoria to introduce such controls ahead of a proposed state government ban on smoking in outdoor locations where children are present.
City councillors this week voted unanimously to implement a pilot project for smoke-free areas at three council-controlled sports reserves for a year.
It will be later widened to all council-controlled buildings and facilities.
Councillors predicted they would cop a backlash, but were prepared to stand by their decision.
The council will offer a $10,000 sponsorship package for each reserve and call for expressions of interest from clubs.
Another $10,000 will be allocated to promote the project.
This week’s vote is a fine-tuned version of an earlier decision in March, which aimed to ban smoking at all council sports grounds by July 1, 2015, using an incentive method of offering up to 100 per cent discount of the tenancy fee to encourage early take-up.
However, flaws were found in the first decision and a revised plan of attack devised.
City community development director Vicky Mason said there was a desire to implement the bans through co-operation and education rather than enforcement.
“It will be a cultural change,” she said.
“Having this as a pilot project will enable us to determine what works and what doesn’t.” Her report to council showed smoking-related deaths in Warrnambool and the percentage of adults who smoked was slightly higher than the state average.
A health and well-being profile compiled last year showed 23 per cent of adult males and 19.9 per cent of adult females in Warrnambool smoked. “The hospital has told us smoking was the number one health problem,” Ms Mason said.
Mayor Michael Neoh said the council should be congratulated for leading the way.
“Many others in local government have tried to introduce smoking bans, but have backed down on implementation,” he said.
Cr Peter Hulin said he had been pushing for a ban for years because “smoking is a curse on our community”.
“I’m proud of this council for finally taking this step to do something, especially in light of Peter’s Project,” he said.
Cr Hulin suggested a ban at the Civic Green, particularly outside the art gallery.
Cr Jacinta Ermacora said the pilot project policy was “brilliant”.
Councillors Peter Sycopoulis and Kylie Gaston also said the policy was a brave move, but the trial would pave the way for wider implementation.
“I’ve had backlash already, but we’ll ride it through,” Cr Sycopoulis said.
Cr Rob Askew said government legislation would eventually bring statewide bans.
“Smoking is a killer and a cost burden on the health system,” he said.