HOBART smokers are under siege from all sides.
With a Hobart City Council push to clamp down on outdoor smoking looming, the Federal Government is jacking up tobacco taxes and forces a shift to generic packaging.
Smokers today will have to pay $2.16 more for a 30-pack of cigarettes, as the Rudd Government announced a 25 per cent rise in tobacco excise, the first rise in a decade, to cut the number of smokers and raise money for its National Health and Hospitals Fund.
Meanwhile, Hobart City Council is poised to ban smoking in the Elizabeth Mall, the adjoining bus mall and Wellington Court and in streetside dining areas across the city including the popular Salamanca Place and the North Hobart dining strip.
Anti-smoking groups are ecstatic but some sectors of the hospitality industry say the plan will further empty the city and cost jobs.
Subject to the approval of the full council on May 10, which is expected, smoking will be banned from the Elizabeth Mall precinct from August 1.
Bans on smoking in council-controlled outdoor dining areas will follow from August 1 next year. Smokers face $120 fines for lighting up.
The council’s city services committee chairman, Ron Christie, said there was widespread support for the ban.
“This is quite a momentous occasion for Hobart to be doing this,” he said.
“I think we’re setting a trend here.”
But Steve Old from the Tasmanian Hospitality Association said pubs and restaurants were collateral damage in a war on anti-social behaviour in the mall.”They need to understand they’re crucifying some of their biggest ratepayers,” he said.
Ian Vaughan, general manager of Salamanca’s Cargo Bar, said he feared patronage would decrease in the four city venues he runs and some of the 120 people employed there might lose their jobs.
“A lot of people when they come out like to have a drink and they have a cigarette,” he said.
“If you’re cutting out smoking in those areas it’s going to lead to the loss of income and that’s going to lead to a loss of jobs.”
Giant tobacco companies are certain to take the Government to court to block it’s direction that cigarettes come in plain wrappers from July 1, 2012, or to demand damages.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called it the “most hardline packaging regime anywhere in the world” and said it would help deter young people from smoking.
Imperial Tobacco Australia said it would “robustly challenge the Government’s disproportionate and misguided plans” for packets.
By DAVID KILLICK, Themercury