Melbourne Mayor Says Total Public Smoking Ban Is Not Enforceable; Top 10 Cigarette-Burning Nations

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By Vittorio Hernandez | January 31, 2013 9:59 AM EST

Due to the tough measures proposed by Melbourne Councilor Richard Foster, City Mayor Robert Doyle has said that it may not be enforceable even if he favours the measure.

The proposal seeks to expand the coverage of the smoking ban the council passed in 2012 by including all public areas, making it one of the toughest smoking ban laws in the world.

Mr Doyle expressed concern over the enforceability of a very tough regulation because experience from other countries that made similar bans on lighting up in public are rarely enforced.

"If it is not enforceable then a law becomes a laughing stock," The Age quoted Mr Doyle, who disclosed that his mother died a few years ago of lung cancer due to cigarette smoking.

While most Melbourne councilors expressed support for measures to further cut the damaging effect of passive smoke in public areas, they declined to comment on a total ban in public places until there is further discussion on the controversial proposal.

More Australian city councils are imposing similar measures. One of them is Perth which unanimously favoured on Tuesday night a smoking prohibition on pedestrian malls.

Perth Mayor Lisa Scaffidi added that she is in favour of making the public ban citywide similar to Melbourne's plan.

If more Australian cities would follow Melbourne's initiative, Australia may further go down the list of the per capita cigarette consumption from its current standing of 41st place with 1,130 cigarette sticks per adult annually.

According to a Wikipedia list, the top 10 cigarette-burning countries are:

1.     Greece - 3,017 sticks per adult per year

2.     Slovenia - 2,537

3.     Ukraine - 2,526

4.     Bulgaria - 2,437

5.     Czech Republic - 2,368

6.     Macedonia - 2,336

7.     Russia - 2,319

8.     Moldova - 2,239

9.     Spain - 2,225

10. Bosnia and Herzegovina - 2,145.

The United States is two spots ahead of Australia in 39th place with 1,196 sticks, Canada is way below on the 57th place with 897 sticks and New Zealand further down on 76th place with 565 cigarettes.

Significantly, the bottom five nations with the least number of cigarette consumption are poor African nations, namely, Ethiopia at 121st place (52); Zambia, 120th place (71); Sudan, 119th place (75); Ghana, 118th place (80); and Zimbabwe, 117th place (86). In this instance, poverty appears to be a blessing-in-disguise because it had prevented citizens of these poor nations from taking the bad habit.

Mr Doyle's argument about weak enforcement appears valid because in the case of Greece, although a law was passed which banned smoking in all workplaces, transport stations, taxies, passenger ships and all enclosed public spaces, most owners of coffee shops, pubs and restaurants flout the law because of weak enforcement.

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