Features and Explainers

Self-preservation in response to new smoking legislation in Victoria

Written by Ali Johnson


The introduction of new smoking legislation in Victoria bans smoking from all outdoor dining areas in Melbourne. Coming into affect on August 1, businesses are already noticing a pinch, whilst others have found ways around the tough anti-smoking laws.

As of August 1, businesses are enforcing this new restriction, originally introduced by the Andrew’s Government in 2015. The Tobacco Amendment Act 2016 will amend the Tobacco Act 1987 to ban smoking at all outdoor dining areas when (where?) food is available for consumption.

Individuals who choose to ignore these restrictions face fines of $777. Negligent businesses can be fined up to $7773.

Smokers will not be permitted in outdoor spaces and dining areas during times where food is available to patrons. This includes footpaths near dining areas, courtyards and beer gardens.



Diagrams of new restrictions on smoking in public dining places. These must be implemented as of August 1 2017 to avoid fines.

Images courtesy of The Age.


Smoking legislation in Victoria has been in place since July 2007, which saw smoking banned indoors at pubs and restaurants. By April, smoking had been banned near hospitals and schools, as well as courts and police stations.

Surveys conducted by Cancer Council in 2014 saw 73 per cent of Victorians disapprove of smoking in outdoor dining spaces.

Quit Victoria research shows 88 per cent of Victorians do not smoke daily.

Despite alarming statistics and proven health risks, businesses within Melbourne’s CBD and outer suburbs are concerned with these restrictions.

Dining precincts within the CBD, such as Degraves Street and Lygon Street, rely heavily on daily footpath trading. Whilst others embraced the reforms ages ago, the ramifications of this new legislation are causing concern for some.

Manager of Degraves Espresso, Sam Hilaa, is against the new laws, as it affects the environment of his business, disheartening customers.

“It’s really annoying”, Mr Hilaa said, who has noticed a change in his business since the laws have come into action. He notes there is a decrease in customers.

“No one is going to come and have a coffee now that they can’t smoke.”

“Between 3pm and 6pm people who are supposed to be coming in and having a cigarette and a coffee can’t anymore. Customers have been disappointed.”

Mr Hilaa is a smoker himself, and has noticed the change in his work environment and day-to-day routine.

“I come in early to work, an hour before, to sit down and have a smoke and a coffee. Now I can’t do that.”

Whilst Mr. Hilaa has accepted the new legislation in order to avoid fines from the council, others have found loopholes in the anti-smoking laws, without directly defying them.

In Oakleigh, a thriving Greek culture is present, with many elderly men being regular smokers. Many residents in the area start their mornings with a coffee and a cigarette at local cafes near Oakleigh’s Eaton Mall.

Anti-smoking laws forbid smoking with coffee if it is within four metres of a venue whilst food is being served.

Out of fear of losing customers by banning smoking, some businesses are taking action to work around the anti-smoking laws, accommodating for customers.

The Kentro Oakleigh has made their alfresco dining area a smoking and coffee only zone. Between 9am to midday no food will be served, and customers to enjoy their cigarettes alongside their morning brew.

Acting manager of the Kentro, Giorgio Sfrantzis, said that the decision was to ensure that no customers feel excluded.

“Personally in our shop, we are catering for everyone. But I’ve heard around people don’t even bother coming to the mall anymore”

Mr. Sfrantzis said to eliminate smoking from the premises completely would dishearten many customers, who associate smoking as part of their daily routine.

“Its such a big cultural thing, its been going on for years. A lot of customers have come from overseas… it would be disrespectful to shun them out. We’ve worked our hardest in the past few days to work to fit everyone in; we don’t want to discriminate against anyone.”

Both Mr. Sfrantzis and Mr. Hilaa argued that smoking was routine, and a norm to the culture and environments. Neither is happy with the legislation, but will accommodate as best as possible.

Since August 1, council inspectors will be strict on smokers who disobey the new laws. Businesses will also be at risk of a fine if they fail to display ‘no smoking’ signs on the premises.

Business owners can choose to ban smoking on the premises completely. Smoking is only accepted in businesses with established four-metre buffers between smokers and diners during times when food is not being served. Others can erect 2.1 metre-high café blinds instead.

For more information on the legislation, visit: https://www2.health.vic.gov.au/public-health/tobacco-reform/smoke-free-areas.
For help in quitting smoking, visit http://www.quitnow.gov.au/ or call the Quitline on 13 78 48.

About the author

Ali Johnson

Hello, my name is Alexandra Johnson, but that’s rather formal and I often forget that’s my name- let’s keep it as Ali.
I’m a 2nd year RMIT Journalism student, finding the will to complete my degree in Media and Communications.
I’ve spent a majority of my life at the beach, and when I haven’t been there, I’ve been in the mountains. You are spot on in assuming that I am a daydreamer and adventurer- I session magazines such as Paper Sea, Drift, Monster Children and National Geographic as often as I can… And when I can afford them.
I live on a farm (yes, an actual cows-in-the-paddock farm) on the Mornington Peninsula, so you can correctly assume that I spend a lot of my time driving.
When I’m not working or at Uni, I spend my time exploring where I live, painting with my friend Phoebe, drinking coffee, or hunting for new music (which is both satisfying, and somewhat laborious).