The Future of Smoking

•October 6, 2007 • 4 Comments

Wandering down the streets of the Sydney CBD sees me contemplating what the future of smoking will be. I’ve always found that there is no point predicting the future, as it never ceases to amaze me how things rarely work out how you plan or imagine.

Nevertheless, it appears to be an enlightening topic.

Will there ever come a day when tobacco smoking will be banned altogether in Australia, Western countries or worldwide? No doubt such a drastic measure will only incite rage amongst cigarette and tobacco company giants, while pleasing anti smoking organisations. Or will the Government choose to restrict smoking so much so that we can escape inhaling it on a daily basis in Sydney city? If so, what will public reaction be if we go further down the road of limitations on smokers? 

In Australia, it is evident that smoking is declining.

Statistics from The Cancer Council indicate that while approximately 72% of Australian men and 26% of women smoked daily in 1945, only 18.6% of Australian men and 16.3% of women smoked daily in 2004. 

Furthermore, according to Jeff Singleton, media adviser to Minister for Health (Cancer) Verity Firth, New South Wales has one of the lowest smoking rates in the Western world with only 17% of the NSW community being regular smokers at present.  

These are encouraging statistics.  It means we are progressing, rather than taking steps backwards.

Nevertheless, it is by no means certain that this progress will continue well into this century. 

Peter Ho, Manager at Martin Place Bar, says the future of smoking in society is bleak.

“I think that the smoking industry in Australia is on the down. A lot of people are more health conscious now and are turning away from it”, he says.  

Nikki Luckey, at the Verandah Bar, says “Hopefully in the future, the government will go even further than the current restrictions and ban smoking on the streets and most public places”.  

To combat smoking, Nita Paterson, bartender at the Vault Hotel, suggests that “the Government should increase the price of cigarettes”. 

Singleton provides some insight into l’avenir of this industry

“We have just finished the arrangements with implementing the indoor smoking ban. This was the biggest reform to smoking laws in about a decade. At this stage, we’re not contemplating shifting the goal post in terms of banning smoking in outdoor areas or cars. We’ll continue to monitor the laws we’ve introduced, and reactions to them”, he says. 

Will smoking be banned in cars in New South Wales? Such measures have just recently been put into practice in South Australia, Tasmania and even the UK.

Singleton responds  “I think there is a responsibility on parents to protect their children and recognise that second hand smoke can have serious consequences for their children, particularly when they are breathing it in enclosed vehicles.”

There is one significant obstacle towards implementing such a ban.  Enforcement. 

According to Singleton, “We need to be mindful of not creating laws which we can’t enforce. In Britain, as part of their ban on indoor smoking, they also tackled smoking in company cars at the end of June 2007. We’ll look to the UK, Tasmania and South Australia as a model to how these laws are operating and being enforced”, he says.

To counter smoking in society, Singleton says that “the Government will continue to use graphic advertising to show the detrimental effects of smoking”. 

Like I said, it is uncertain what will become of this addictive habit in the future. I look forward to seeing how the Government will respond to smoking in years to come, creating a healthier and more informed society, by balancing the needs and interests of Australians.

smoking city

A lady smokes with her husband in Sydney CBD  


Internet, marketing and tobacco companies

•October 5, 2007 • 2 Comments


Academics at the University of Sydney’s Public Health Department are arguing that pro smoking videos on popular sites like YouTube are cleverly orchestrated marketing attempts by tobacco company giants like Philip Morris Inc. and British American Tobacco Ltd.

Professor Simon Chapman from Sydney University’s School of Public Health is convinced tobacco companies are manipulating young people on the internet to purchase cigarettes. Even though the videos don’t necessarily look like tobacco company advertisements, they have the effect of promoting smoking.

Chapman has said on the ABC’s radio programme 27th September 2007, “if I were in the tobacco industry, I’d be working overtime to ensure those clips are out there in a large variety of ways and it looks like they’re doing that”.

The dubious practices of some tobacco companies was explored in a Victorian case McCabe v. British American Tobacco Australia Services Ltd involving a big cover up by the tobacco company in 2002.

According to The Non Smokers Movement of Australia (NSMA), the tobacco industry spends over $70 million annually on cigarette advertising and promotion. A great deal of this advertising is geared towards encouraging children to smoke.

The sheer lengths they will go to, to protect their interests is thus thrown into question. 

Nerida White, Corporate Affairs officer for leading tobacco company Philip Morris Australia, refutes the claims of Chapman,“By its very nature it is hard to control what people post on the internet. We don’t advertise or promote our products or smoking here.

While we do not think people should be advertising tobacco on the internet, as some have already suggested, it is undoubtedly an appropriate means of communicating important messages about the serious health effects of smoking.

And while it is not clear what form legislation might take to restrict or ban tobacco advertising on the internet, Philip Morris would not oppose such legislation”

Regardless of who is responsible, some are calling on the Federal Government to step in.

Suzie Stillman from Quit Victoria, is urging the Government to increase restrictions, and bring the Internet into regulatory lines with other media models.

This is understandable, and no doubt urgently necessary so as not to undo all the prior efforts to counter smoking amongst the youth. Not to mention the millions of dollars the Government has invested into the quitting smoking campaigns.

She suggests removing or blocking access to pro smoking videos. Like Stillman, Chapman advocates for tobacco control.

At present, YouTube’s code of conduct policy outlaws pornography, sexually explicit content, the depiction of dangerous of illegal acts, intentionally shocking or disgusting material, hate speech, racism, animal abuse, bomb making, violence or the ‘malicious use of stereotypes which discriminate.

Users are also able to flag material which is deemed to be inconsistent with the code and it will be investigated by YouTube within 24-28 hours (according to YouTube). Perhaps YouTube needs to extend its definition of unacceptable material to include pro smoking videos, to counter this growing problem.

Helen Coonan, Federal Communications Minister, is concerned by the alarming growth of pro smoking videos. She has stated that the Government will investigate further to see if current laws need to be updated.

In the ABC Radio PM programme, she says “We may have to actually broaden the definition of publication. At the moment it’s prohibited if it’s in a document, if it appears in a film or a radio program or it’s put in a public place. There’s some argument about whether it’s specific to the Internet.”

Time will tell what the future of internet marketing will be. It is growing at an unprecedented rate, being largely uncensored and unregulated. Perhaps an international body needs to be created to oversee its development, thus steering marketing strategies in the right direction to combat smoking amongst young people both in Australia and worldwide. 

YouTube and the like frustrate anti smoking campaigns

•October 3, 2007 • 7 Comments

Social networking sites are frustrating Government anti smoking campaigns even though smoking rates have declined amongst young people in recent times, says University of Sydney Professor of Public Health, Simon Chapman.  

Videos, images and text presented on interactive internet sites like YouTube, Facebook and Myspace, are encouraging young people to take up smoking by presenting it as glamorous, acceptable and culturally ‘fashionable’.  

In their most recent 2005 survey, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reported 12.7% of males and 14.2% of females aged 14 to 19 were current smokers.

According to the ABS, ‘Tobacco Smoking in Australia: A Snapshot, 2004-05’, people who start smoking when they’re young are more likely to smoke heavily and more dependent on nicotine. They are therefore at a higher risk of smoking related illness or death (McDermott, Russell and Dobson 2002)

Approximately 15,000 people die in Australia each year from active and passive smoking, says Prof Chapman.

“There is a huge amount of pro-tobacco material on the web which escapes regulation”, he says.  

YouTube contains a great deal of pro smoking material, and is the subject of increasing research by the University of Sydney’s Public Health Department. It is a place to, as the slogan says, ‘broadcast yourself’ to the world at large. It allows individuals to upload videos of themselves or others, and viewers are able to leave comments and rate them.  

There are a variety of smoking videos on YouTube including one which contains images of two women blowing smoke into each others’ mouths. This video (which has since been removed by the person who uploaded it) had 221, 033 views and 142 comments. The opinions on it were varied, however the overwhelming majority was positive e.g. “‘Smokin’, ‘HOT HOT HOT’. Loved it’”.  Negative views were also voiced, including ‘Lung cancer becomes a STD. Nice’.  

Another video positions smoking as acceptable, part of a sub culture and hip featuring background music by an alternative artist. 


Smoking is positioned as cool and trendy for young girls by this young smoker


In addition, a video which incited some criticism for its racist attitudes is surprisingly still on YouTube despite their code of conduct policy

Another example of an historical marketing campaign includes the Flintstones cigarette advertisement for Winstons and Virginia Slims advertisements of the 1960s (which are no longer available due to a copyright claim by tobacco company Philip MorrisUSA Inc).


Furthermore, there are international videos with thousands of hits, including one of Swedish ‘Snus’  i.e. smokeless tobacco which is inserted under the upper lip and can be used in non smoking areas.   

In addition, there is another video with over 6000 hits demonstrating how to use snus in front of friends. As well as pro smoking advertisements, there are also many witty peculiar and quirky anti-smoking advertisements, presenting smoking as dangerous. These are widely watched too.

TheBalcony’ smoking ad had over 300,000 hits, 98 comments and was favourited 569 times.  

A Quit Smoking campaign is featured on YouTube which includes an amalgamation of all the anti smoking advertisements broadcast on television. Another popular anti smoking video involves an older man trying to quit smoking, urging others to do so too on his nominated quit day. There are several positive comments, with many others posting their own video responses saying that they too will quit.

In his article, Chapman suggests that this demonstrates the benefits of the internet as a tool also for anti smoking, if used effectively. He advocates using real people, rather than a staged show which viewers will see right through. This is necessary to maximise this new form of media.

Prof Chapman suggests that anti smoking initiatives should focus more on new web based media modes, rather than traditional broadcast media because the web presents “a new battleground for the lungs of our adolescents”.

And I couldn’t agree more. It is important that the Government recognises the importance of targeting the youth in the most effective way possible. It is already learning how efficient the web is in election propaganda, with most ministers standing for the Federal election having a Myspace e.g. Kevin Rudd. If the Government is unable to move with the times, it is likely that tobacco marketing will prosper in reaching young people, luring them in to experiment with cigarettes. It could also potentially wipe out all the progress made to date. It’s time to act. And the time is now.

Clubs NSW sings success

•October 2, 2007 • 1 Comment

clubs nsw logo

Clubs NSW has released one of the first reports on the impact of the indoor smoking ban. Unfortunately, this report is not available to the public at large, but members of Clubs NSW. When contacted they refused to pass comment saying “we’re not in a position yet to do so”.

A more thorough public version may be made available in future, documenting more tangible results on the impact. In some consolation, this is an extract of the speech by the CEO of Clubs NSW, David Costello,  

“The implementation of the indoor smoking ban has proved extremely successful; with clubs and smokers working together to ensure the health of non smokers is protected from the existence of second hand smoke…While revenue is substantially down in clubs across the State, the first step of compliance has been overwhelmingly achieved.

For clubs, the challenge now is winning back those members who have decided not to visit because of the indoor smoking bans. This is no easy feat, and will take some time. However with the large and comfortable outdoor areas clubs have built, I’m confident smokers will return…the challenge now for clubs is convincing those people who are trying clubs for the first time that theirs is a place worth returning to time and time again.” 

These comments are in line with the reactions of the seven to eight bars and clubs I interviewed.    


Outdoor area at Verandah Bar, Sydney CBD 

I must say, it is encouraging that the State Government has put the health of New South Wales residents ahead of profits to some extent. It is rare that this occurs.

In the past, the Government has demonstrated that it acts retrospectively rather than being proactive in our evolving society (nevertheless, part of the reason for the introduction of the ban was to counteract the increasing number of cancer cases reported amongst bar and club workers from passive smoking).

Further, and more relevantly here, the State Government continually positions State revenue as paramount. I wonder if the Government would lift the age on teenage driving from 16 to 21 in the interest of the “children’s safety”, ahead of the huge revenue generated from each eager teenager passing their Ps test whilst still at school?

But then again, it’s not the State Government’s revenue that’s suffering here. The individuals and corporations affected by these bans are cigarette and tobacco companies like Philip Morris and British American Tobacco, CBD and country bars, pubs and clubs, private businesses and their owners. So why not sacrifice their livelihood to improve the health of Australians? Hey, better them than us?!

Further insight into effects of smoking ban

•September 28, 2007 • Leave a Comment

clubbing scene

Clubbing scene at Diamond Hotel, Sydney CBD

Digging a little deeper, you might be able to find out another level of results from the ban.  

Despite varied opinions on the introduction of the ban, most staff interviewed in Sydney’s bars and clubs agree that the music industry hasn’t been significantly affected.  

Damon Crawford at an anonymous CBD Hotel suggests however that  “A lot of regular smokers won’t go to non smoking nightclubs because they’ll sometimes have to walk one hundred metres to get out for a cigarette…then you have a constant stream coming in and out…it’s very hard”.

In the article “The Philosophy of Social Smoking”, the importance of smoking only in public places with efficient air extraction facilities and/or specially designated rooms is emphasized.

The negative consequences if such measures are not in place were felt by Nita Paterson at the Vault Hotel before the reforms.

“It’s a lot healthier here now downstairs because there’s no ventilation and no windows, just the air conditioning vent. So when we used to work down there it was really gross”, she says.  

Moreover, the article states that society has a right to smoke if they wish, regardless of the opinion of others. Advocating a blanket ban on smoking would be going down a short track to a dictatorship government. This may be so, but at the same time, does this right extend to put the health of others in jeopardy?

In addition, the bars and clubs report that social smokers are less inclined to smoke as they are no longer in a smoke environment when drinking with friends. This is a really interesting concept.

On a quiet afternoon in the Arthouse courtyard, Tana Athas, nips at her cigarette butt while she chats with a friend. “I’m a social smoker, so I definitely smoke less than before the ban”, she says.  


Tana Athas with a friend in the Arthouse Hotel courtyard, Sydney CBD

The fall in social smoking could have potentially devastating effects for cigarette and tobacco companies, sending their sales plummeting.  

Further, the decline in the culture of social smoking could reinvent the way we position ourselves contextually.

The indoor smoking ban has also wreaked havoc for city streets and lanes.

“Out on the side of the bar, smokers take up the whole laneway weeknights typically after 5pm Wednesday to Friday”, says Nita Paterson from the Vault Hotel. 

smokers street

Smokers line the side of streets, Sydney CBD

This is a view echoed by Isabella Pokorski, Agincourt Hotel bartender. It is harder though for this pub, being located on the corner or Harris and George Street, with a constant flow of pedestrians as well as smokers lining the streets and waiting at the crossing. 

“A lot of people have been smoking outside the pub on the footpaths and doorways, particularly weeknights because that’s the only place we’ve got”, she says. This also means more rubbish and cleaning for the workers. 

To attract more people back to the pub, Paterson suggests more happy hours, specials, or even “naming a cocktail after a cigarette brand!”

As the managers have pointed out, we need to wait to see any distinct results emerge from the ban. The verdict is not in. Not quite yet. In a year’s time, perhaps the Government would have taken a stronger stance against smoking. Bar owners will clearly have to accept the prohibition, tailoring their businesses to suit the new standards, because after all, as Crawford states “The education’s there, everyone knows, it’s just a matter of time because it’s the law now”.  

Sydney’s bars and clubs speak out on the indoor smoking ban

•September 14, 2007 • 1 Comment


Outside the Arthouse Hotel, Pitt Street Sydney CBD

I went out in search of some interesting and surprising reactions to the indoor smoking ban amongst Sydney’s bars and clubs. At a glance, it is hard to tell what the response will be.

It’s been almost three months since the ban was introduced and although it may still be early days in identifying effects, there are some common trends emerging.  So far, while revenue has gone down in most indoor facilities, the air quality is better and the environment a lot more pleasant. Overall, the indoor venues are much healthier to be and work in than before the reforms.  

“Walking into a bar in the afternoon has never felt so inviting”, says one non smoking customer, relaxing while sipping a cool beverage at Martin Place Bar. The weather is sweltering hot, but the air inside is fresh.  

Peter Ho, Manager at Martin Place Bar, believes the ban has generally been positive “I think it’s good for non smokers, but as far as gaming is concerned it’s negative with our revenue dropping”. As a non smoker, he was affected prior to the reforms, “It’s important to have laws in place, especially for staff. We all know passive smoking is a big problem”.    


Martin Place Bar, Sydney CBD

“In the first week, people continued to smoke. Some couldn’t adjust to the fact smoking indoors is no longer the norm. It took about a month to set in”, he continues.

Like most CBD clubs and bars, he has faced both complaints and positive feed back. An effect which is to be expected. 

General Manager, Damon Crawford, from one CBD hotel (that requested to be anonymous), has faced many complaints from frustrated customers.  

“It’s hard when customers have been coming in for ten to twelve years, and all of a sudden, they can’t smoke. It hurts more in winter because it’s too cold for them to go outside”, he says.  

Further down Pitt Street in the CBD, the Vault Hotel lures an energetic crowd in for a couple of post work drinks.  Nita Paterson, bartender for over three years, mixes a cocktail for a customer.  “We’ve had a couple of complaints, but a lot more are happy. We’ve actually lost one regular customer who was a heavy smoker…coincidentally he stopped coming in for afternoon drinks when we had the reforms come in”.  “To guide smokers to outdoor areas, we’ve taken away all the ashtrays from inside the bar and put them outside”, she says.


Nita Paterson at the Vault Hotel, Sydney CBD.

Other indoor venues are recording a more drastic response. 

Isabella Pokorski, bartender at the Agincourt Hotel reveals some alarming news, “a lot of regulars boycotted the bar for a little while when the reforms came in, but now it’s slowly picking up again”.

Matthew Erby, Manager at the Arthouse Hotel  reports no complaints since the ban was introduced, mostly because the hotel features a small courtyard which “is pretty busy all the time”.

In preparation for the ban, Erby was planning how to reduce impact, focusing on income from private and corporate events.

Paterson suggests the phasing in of the reforms was the best part “I think it was good how they started it gradually. It’s not such a drastic plan”.

The personal response to the bans amongst staff is also varied.  

Nikki Luckey, a bartender at Verandah Bar for over a year, finds the ban excellent: “I love it. I don’t feel sick anymore!” 

For Pokorski, the ban has been fundamental for her employment, “I wouldn’t be able to work otherwise. I only started working here the day the ban came out. I hate smoking so much! It’s definitely been a long time coming”, she says.

Crawford is not as convinced “I’m not against it, because it’s a serious health issue…and morally excellent, but it’s just a case of being able to manage the bar better because it has impacted on everyone’s business”.

Even though his hotel is struggling, he admits there are others far worse off “We’re not as hard hit as the suburban and country pubs, which struggle with revenue schemes like entertainment, relying on their regular smokers who would most likely react badly”. 


Bartender Kalliopi Papoutsakis, Arthouse Hotel Sydney CBD.

Erby however is embracing the change “I love it. I would have preferred to go non smoking before but I think it would have hurt the business. The Government should introduce a blanket ban in all outdoor areas, café areas and beer gardens”.

But, the pressure from hotel lobby groups such as Clubs NSW and the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) will not permit it.

Will a huff and a puff really bring the house down?

•August 14, 2007 • Leave a Comment


 Verandah Bar, Sydney CBD

There are few people who frequent the Sydney CBD streets that manage to escape being exhaled on by a cigarette lover blowing profusely through their pursed lips. It is at most a common annoyance for many, and may become a sight we see more often now that recent laws have come into force.

These reforms threaten to line our footpaths with smokers who cannot enter enclosed premises for fear of heavy fines. But perhaps this is the price we pay if we are to save our long term health and enjoy a good night out at a pub, club or restaurant with better tasting food.

So what is all the fuss about? It looks like something revolutionary hit the night life and clubbing scene in Sydney city last month, signaling the start of a new era. On July 1 2007 smoking cigarettes in all indoor areas of licensed venues across New South Wales was banned. The only exception to the ban includes areas that have an open air component of over 25 per cent.

Verity Firth, the NSW Minister assisting the Minister for Health, considers it to be an historic day in spite of criticism by some of the state’s 3,700 licensed venues which will be affected.

She told the Herald Sun that it was one of the most important changes to smoking laws since tobacco companies were required to implement striking health warnings on cigarette packets.

Under this new legislation, an individual caught smoking indoors can be fined $550 while publicans and owners will suffer up to $5000 more in fines. 

The laws have left many owners of clubs, pubs, gaming rooms as well as other licensed venues, fretting over their future revenue.

It is hard to tell too, given that we are in the middle of winter, what the low clientele means. Will the laws ultimately be justified? Are people simply not going out as much? Or opting for elsewhere to enjoy a smoke?

Regardless, it was due to overwhelming public support that the reforms were implemented. Research conducted earlier this year by the NSW Cancer Institute indicated that 84 per cent of the community supported a complete ban on smoking indoors.

Clubs and pubs now join the dozens of other places (including sporting and recreational amenities, shopping malls, public transport, schools, universities, community centres, libraries, restaurants, cinemas and cafes) that are already smoke free.

Ms Firth is optimistic for the future of Australians health :

“The medical evidence is clear: second hand smoke kills and the new indoor smoking ban will save hundreds if not thousands of lives.”

And according to NSW Health, every year in NSW up to one hundred former bar staff and hospitality workers die prematurely from diseases and health conditions as a result of their exposure to cigarette smoke in the workplace.

So in light of this, perhaps a congratulations is in order to the Iemma Government who have finally done something right. Despite their constant affirmations that the trains will be fixed and failed education and water promises, it appears the Government is caring for the health and welfare of its citizens.

But the line has not been drawn yet. Ms Firth said cars could be next in line for smoking bans…Although in theory this could be ideal (especially with parent smokers and children) how difficult will such laws be to enforce? It would require more policing on our roads and appears to be largely impractical.  How much further will the Government go from here? Indeed, how much further can they realistically go…Even so, do the ends justify the means?

smokers street

Smokers in Martin Place, Sydney CBD