IN a strange twist of fate, Mornington Peninsula Shire’s efforts to combat one known source of death and illness is being hampered by another, totally unexpected threat.
However, councillors last week voted against deferring the creation of no-smoking areas, telling CEO John Baker to “ensure that the smoke-free policy is implemented as soon as practical”.
In doing so they have rejected a recommendation by one of their own senior officers they delay implementing the Smoke Free Environment policy because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While council is taking measures to lessen the effects of COVID-19 under the state government-declared lockdown, delaying its anti-smoking program would do nothing to lessen deaths and illness attributed to smoking.
VicHealth says 4000 Victorians die of smoking-related, preventable deaths each year at an estimated cost of $5 billion. Data from 2018 shows that 10.7 per cent of Victorian adults regularly smoke, down from 13.5 per cent in 2015.
Ailments attributable to tobacco smoking include lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, asthma, premature, low birth weight babies and diabetes.
Community safety coordinator Talana Cook in a report to council’s Tuesday 11 August meeting, urged councillors to wait for an “action plan for the staged implementation” of the policy rather than bring forward the second stage to 21 December this year.
“The impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic on resourcing availability, ability to engage stakeholders and implementation activities, further strengthens the argument for a prioritised and staged approach to implementation,” Ms Cook stated.
Cr David Gill told The News that “nothing was done last year and nothing this year”. “We’ve had the community onto us to do something, but as soon as it got a bit hard nothing was done. The officers even neglected to put it in the budget.”
Ms Cook put the cost of bins and signs at $515,000.
The first stage of the smoke-free policy would be relatively easy as it aims at restricting smoking at council properties and events.
Stage two would be more problematic as it involves beaches (initially Mornington, Rye and Dromana), foreshore camping areas, sports and bushland reserves, community centres, senior citizen centres, beach boxes (in smoke free areas), golf courses, cemeteries and parks. Main Street, Mornington would be the first non-smoking drinking and eating area.
Ms Cook’s report, supported by a 47-page summary co-authored by environment protection manager John Rankine and consultant Cindy Stubbs, said the shire’s ability “to engage effectively with key stakeholders has been removed in the current ‘lockdown’ environment”.
“The supply chain for the manufacture of the signage and butt bins has also been affected and their capacity is reduced.”