A new survey by University of Newcastle researchers shows increasing numbers of Australians are becoming less tolerant of smoking in public places and want tougher restrictions on cigarette sales.
The survey, by researchers from the Centre for Health Research and Psycho-oncology (CHeRP)*, is published in the latest edition of the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.
It found that 75 per cent of non-smokers and 42 per cent of smokers surveyed in New South Wales favoured a smoking ban in outdoor dining areas and almost 90 per cent of respondents - both smokers and non-smokers - supported bans on smoking in children's playgrounds.
Lead researcher, Associate Professor Raoul Walsh, said the government policies on smoking in outdoor settings were out of touch with the majority of people surveyed.
"Despite recent new legislation in NSW, we found that the current tobacco control policies of both the Australian and New South Wales' governments still lag behind public preferences," he said.
"There is strong community support for additional government regulation around smoking, in particular smoking in public places, the sale of tobacco, and how much money is spent on tobacco control.
"Ninety per cent of respondents advocated government spending of at least $3 billion each year on anti-tobacco campaigns - that's more than half of the $5.1 billion collected each year from tobacco taxes. Currently the Australian and NSW governments combined spend substantially less than $100 million each year on tobacco control."
The survey also found strong public support for banning tobacco sales in shops visited by children, such as supermarkets; and for cigarettes to be sold in plain, generic packs.
"Previously published research shows the Australian public hold very negative views about the tobacco industry and that even smokers are generally supportive of stronger tobacco regulation," Associate Professor Walsh said.
"This study supports that position. Public opinion remains ahead of government action on tobacco control and it is time for the Australian and New South Wales' governments to bridge the gap completely."
* CHeRP is a behavioural research centre jointly funded by The Cancer Council NSW and the University of Newcastle.
CHeRP is part of the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) Public Health Research program.
HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.