Spectators defy new smoking bans

A CIGARETTE ban at Warrnambool’s football grounds has failed to be enforced during its first week with smokers openly puffing away on the sidelines.

More than 25 people were observed smoking at yesterday’s Warrnambool versus South Warrnambool game — one of the biggest matches in the Hampden league’s opening week.

This was despite a new council directive which bans smoking within the fence-line of the Reid Oval complex, Friendly Societies’ Park and Bushfield Recreation Reserve.

While all municipalities across Victoria have to apply a 10-metre exclusion zone where children and teenagers play, Warrnambool City Council has extended the state government ban to all of its venues 24 hours a day, starting last week.

Veteran smoker Gary Lambert labelled the new rules as ridiculous and said many spectators were not informed of the ban which was flagged last month.

“It’s bloody ridiculous — no-one’s taking it seriously because it doesn’t make any sense,” Mr Lambert said.

“We’re out in the open air, it’s not like you’re at a pub or something. The council should mind its own business. All these rules make the council feel better about themselves but there’s plenty of people (smoking cigarettes) because they know it’s just a load of hot air.” 

Many of the spectators smoking at yesterday’s Hampden league match lit up outside the main pavilion although others were less conspicuous, opting for behind the stands. 

Football and netball clubs do not have legal power to enforce the rule, but can ask for council local laws officers to step in to caution or fine offending patrons.

Under the new provisions, a $285 on-the-spot fine will apply to offenders but council and sporting officials expressed hope that “community commonsense” would prevail.

Warrnambool mayor Michael Neoh said it was to be expected that many spectators were unaware of the ban, adding that council did not want to take a heavy-handed approach.

“There’s no need to hit people over the head with a fine,” Cr Neoh said. “Once people become more aware, and it will take time, we will see smoking phased out of sporting grounds but it’s not going to happen overnight.

“Signage needs to set up if it hasn’t already and there’s always room for review as to whether there’s enough public information out there.”

Other spectators expressed support for the smoke-free regime. South Warrnambool club member Leon Maguire said only a small percentage of spectators smoked, with the nicotine habit dying out among generation Y players and fans.

“I think most people are pretty supportive, only a few supporters here and there smoke these days,” Mr Maguire said.

“You go back 20, 30 or so years ago, it was almost compulsory to smoke, most blokes did anyway. Things have changed and (the ban) is part of that change.”

alex.sinnott@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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