City councillor Kevin Poynter has urged the city’s businesses to back a controversial proposal to weed out smoking in the Wagga CBD, revealing passive smoking was a contributing factor in his mother's death.
His deeply personal gripe with smokers comes as a handful of main street businesses circulate a petition to use as leverage against council and the push to declare the CBD smoke-free.
The petition is bound to intensify the debate ahead of a council meeting next week, in which the smoking ban is expected to be ratified and propelled into a 12-month trial.
Councillor Poynter had not seen the petition, but put forward the view that smokers had a responsibility to the non-smoking population.
“My father smoked quite a lot,” he said.
“It was always around in the house and in the end my mother had emphysema when she died.
“Certainly, this is part of my thinking, but it’s also backed by research. The research is showing passive smoking has an impact on your health.”
Despite many being non-smokers themselves, opponents of the ban take issue with an apparent lack of detail.
Wagga Business Chamber president Tim Rose fears businesses will be slugged with enforcement duties, believing council rangers and police will not be able to cope with the increased workload.
“This is just going to be another headache for businesses,” he said.
“It forces businesses to be the policemen of council and the state government. Who is actually going to be pursuing people engaging in illegal activity?”
Mr Rose questioned how likely it was to be exposed to harmful passive smoking in the CBD.
“I doubt it’s even been explored,” he said.
If a smoking ban in the CBD is carried, it will be the second crackdown on smokers this year.
Earlier this month, new regulations meant smokers were told to butt out in outdoor commercial dining areas. In response, some Sydney pubs opted for smokers over food.
It’s responses such as those which lead people like Peter Halicki, the owner of Collins Booksellers, to believe smokers can never be stopped.
Mr Halicki said a ban on Baylis Street would just centralise smokers to surrounding streets, having adverse effects on trading and business productivity.
But Councillor Greg Conkey, who spearheads the proposal, said none of it would be needed if smokers were” considerate” and “respectful” to non-smokers.
“Unfortunately, they are not,” he said.
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