SMOKERS and businesses in Cooma and the Monaro are being encouraged to be aware of new laws on smoke-free outdoor areas that will come into force in NSW on Monday.
The changes increase the number of public places that are smoke-free, including childrens' playgrounds and public swimming pools -a key measure in reducing community exposure to second-hand smoke and the uptake of smoking in NSW.
NSW Health Inspectors are authorised to enforce bans under the new legislation, with penalties of up to $550 for anyone who fails to comply with the law.
Southern NSW Local Health District Health Promotion Coordinator Emma Woolley said it was important that all affected sectors were aware of the changes and prepared for their introduction. Penalties will apply to anyone who fails to comply with the new laws, which were passed by State Parliament in August.
The new laws ban smoking in the following outdoor public places from January 7:
* Within 10 metres of children's play equipment in outdoor public spaces;
* Open areas of public swimming pool complexes;
* Spectator areas at sports grounds or other recreational areas during organised sporting events;
* Public transport stops and stations, including railway platforms, light rail stops, light rail stations, bus stops, taxi ranks and ferry wharves;
* Within four metres of a pedestrian access point to a public building (meaning a non-residential building, or a building that combines residential and commercial uses);
Under the legislation, smoking will also be banned in commercial outdoor dining areas from 2015.
Smoking-related illness accounts for around 5200 deaths and 44,000 hospitalisations per year in NSW and costs about $8 billion annually.
"The Tobacco Legislation Amendment Act 2012 will tighten restrictions on where people can smoke in New South Wales," Mrs Woolley said.
"The laws will affect many in the community, such as sports clubs, hotel owners, cafe and food outlet proprietors, industry groups, and the general public.
"New South Wales is leading the way in combating smoking and this legislation will result in major health benefits for all.
"Not only will it help protect children from tobacco promotion and the harms of passive smoking, but it will also reduce smoking-caused illness, and help people live longer, healthier lives," Mrs Woolley said.
More information on the ban can be found at www.health.nsw.gov.au
(with the Goulburn Post)