New laws in NSW today ban smoking across station platforms, as well as at public bus stops. That's excellent news for NSW commuters, but residents of other states may still have to wait a while for completely smoke-free travel.
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While waiting for the train I routinely catch in the morning to head to work, there's often a smoker who chooses to position himself on the same part of the platform as me. Until today, NSW law banned smoking in the covered areas of stations, but not in open areas, so I didn't have any basis to complain. It's never been quite irritating enough to make me stand elsewhere on the platform, especially since I have the practical but slightly tragic approach of boarding the train at a location which positions me so that I'll be right next to the exit when I get off at the other end. But it's still a minor annoyance.
Fortunately, it's a hassle I shouldn't have to face again. As of today, smoking anywhere at "public transport bus stops or stations" is illegal in NSW. As the Cityrail announcement helpfully explains:
Smoking is already prohibited on trains and covered stations and this ban will now be extended to include all platforms and interchanges, regardless of whether they are covered or not.
That's arguably an even bigger boon for bus travellers than for train customers. After all, I can always move elsewhere on the platform, but bus stops aren't large enough to make that possible. I can't imagine smokers will be too thrilled with the development; smoking has long been banned on buses and trains, so it's not uncommon to see people frantically smoking right up until they board. But their nicotine habit doesn't override the right of others not to get subjected to potentially health-damaging second-hand smoke.
Anyway, the new law is all well and good for the residents of NSW, but what rules apply in other states? Here's a summary (some of which draws on the comprehensive discussion of smoking-related laws at Tobacco In Australia:
- Victoria: Smoking is prohibited in covered areas of stations, but not elsewhere.
- Queensland: Queensland Rail bans all smoking at stations. Laws regarding smoking are determined at local council level, which would impact any potential bus stop policies.
- Western Australia: Transperth bans smoking at all stations. There aren't any specific laws regarding bus stops, but reports suggest some bus stops do feature no smoking signs.
- South Australia: Smoking has been banned in all covered areas since May 2012, a rule that covers both bus stops and train stations.
- Tasmania: Smoking is banned in the Hobart bus mall and at two bus interchange areas in Launceston.
- ACT: No specific laws appear to apply to bus stops.
- Northern Territory: Smoking is banned at all bus waiting areas.
The smoker I usually spot wasn't at the station this morning. However, there were dozens of cigarette butts evident on the platform, suggesting that lots of people will need to change their habits. Cityrail says it will update station announcements and introduce new platform signage soon. Until that happens, I'm not sure I've got the guts to suggest to a random stranger at 6am in the morning that they need to put their cigarette out.
If you do decide to make such an approach, stay polite. After all, you can't be sure that the person in question knows that the rules have changed. You're still not guaranteed a good reception, but you can increase the odds by not being aggressive.
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman was surprised to learn that you can't even smoke in the high roller rooms at casinos in Tasmania, South Australia and the ACT. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.