One Sydney council area will be the first in Australia to make its CBD smoke-free… with an initial emphasis on education, says its pharmacist mayor
At the October meeting of the Strathfield Council, it was decided that smoking will be banned in the Strathfield CBD, and that signage be erected advising locals not to smoke there.
It’s an issue which has been discussed for some time, says Mayor Gulian Vaccari, who told the AJP that a report was tabled at the October meeting and the decision made unanimously.
“The original idea to investigate smoking infringements in Strathfield came from my Deputy Mayor, Matthew Blackmore,” says Cr Vaccari, who has been a pharmacist for over 30 years.
“We have an interest in making sure our business districts are the best they can be, so smoking is part of that,” he says.
“We have seven out of seven Councillors concerned about public health. My original idea was to just have this as a small trial in one small section of the CBD – Strathfield Square, directly outside Strathfield Station.
“As the meetings went on, it became quite clear that the other Councillors were as concerned as I was. So we eventually landed with the whole of the Strathfield CBD, which is not a huge area – it’s quite a contained area.”
The area across the road from one of the CBD’s boundaries is administered by the adjacent Burwood Council, and it was determined at the meeting that Strathfield write to Burwood to encourage the neighbouring council to also consider a smoke-free area.
Cr Vaccari says that initially, compliance officers would simply talk with people smoking in the CBD, rather than immediately imposing fines.
“My intention here is that it be not so much a money-raising exercise, but more of an education exercise. So we’ll send them in to talk to people and make them understand that it’s not really allowed from a public health point of view, and from a personal point of view not appropriate.
“We’ll develop some flyers to hand to people – the message being, ‘don’t smoke, and if you keep smoking here we’re going to fine you’.
A consultant pharmacist who has owned a number of pharmacies in the past, Cr Vaccari says that smoking is something he feels “very passionately” about.
“I’ve never found a good thing to say about smoking,” he says.
He has a strong professional interest in chronic disease state management, he says, as does his wife, also a pharmacist.
“At the pharmacy I used to own in Ashfield, and some of the other pharmacies I’ve owned over the years, we pushed the whole MedsCheck initiative, because it’s a great way of not only looking at people’s drug regimes and how they’re taking, or not taking, their medications, as the case may be,” he told the AJP.
“Obviously it’s great for compliance, but also for getting people one-on-one in a relaxed environment and talking about chronic disease state management and lifestyle.
“I get them into my little room and talk weight, and diet and exercise, and smoking, and anxiety and stress and work-life balance, all that sort of stuff, and smoking is one aspect of that.”
Pharmacists are doing “great work” in the smoking cessation space, he says.
“We’re doing a great job in our industry. A lot of it’s unpaid. We have a responsibility as pharmacists to work on public health initiatives, and we’re so available for people to just pop in and have a chat.”
Cr Vaccari says he hopes more councils around Australia will follow suit, but stresses that the battle against smoking continues to take place in small increments, and that the public needs to be on board with anti-smoking initiatives.
“You have to take people with you. We as a society cannot just impose ourselves on these issues – it has to be progressive.
“You look at where smoking was 40 years ago, and people would just smoke around the kitchen table with their children there. That’s pretty much a no-no now.
“Forty years ago people would be smoking in the office, and you’d have a non-smoker in the next cubicle. This passive smoke 40 years ago was a given.
“Slowly but surely, the public instrumentality came in first, then the restaurants, the train carriages and buses, and now even within many private homes smoking is not seen as a good thing. Ever so gradually, a little bit at a time, we’re getting there.
“We’ve made a lot of progress with the plain packaging. I’m hoping this [initiative in Strathfield] is just another part of the eventual jigsaw puzzle.
“The jigsaw puzzle will be finished the day there are no more smokers.”