Bourke Street Mall could go smoke-free

By David Schout

Smokers could be booted from Bourke Street Mall after the City of Melbourne sought public opinion on a smoking ban. 

The popular retail and busking thoroughfare would become the 10th area in the CBD to go smoke-free, after The Causeway was the first laneway to prohibit smokers in 2014.

Since then, areas such as Howey Place, Equitable Place, City Square, QV Melbourne and Collins Way have all became no-go zones for smokers following community surveys.

The council has said it is “committed to protecting the community from passive smoking by expanding smoke-free areas in and around the city”.

It asked public respondents whether they supported the banning of smokers on a stretch of Bourke Street between Elizabeth Street and Russell Place.

The public consultation, which closed on May 21, queried individuals about their smoking habits, their relationship to the mall, and whether a ban would be fair.

It also asked business owners, in a separate survey, about staff and clientele smoking habits and similarly, how fair a ban would be. 

But East Enders president Jenny Eltham said the ban would be “no fix”.

“It simply pushes the smokers elsewhere. It doesn’t address the issue with the ‘butt’ litter,” she said.

She said a plan to increase the number of compliance officers may be a better idea.

Prominent Bourke Street Mall busker Dan Richardson was in favour of any restrictions.

“I’d love a smoking ban,” the didgeridoo player said. 

“It was just yesterday that I was setting up next to one of the trees, and as I was, someone was smoking on the other side of it, and the smoke was drifting straight into me. I’m literally taking steps away, taking a breath, and coming back. So yeah, I’d like it.”

Richardson said, however, that an equal if not bigger issue in the mall was the fumes emitted from security vehicles, which often park and leave their engines running for up to an hour.

“If you ask them, they tell you it’s for security reasons, but occasionally they don’t (leave it running). So whatever reasons they have, it seems pretty thin. That puts out more diesel fumes than all the smokers in the whole mall.”

Smoke-free areas in the CBD are clearly signed, and fines can apply if a person fails to comply with the restrictions.

While several CBD locations have become smoke-free following community engagement, some have not.

In 2017, the council decided against making RMIT University footpaths smoke-free after a period of public consultation. 

It will consider the Bourke Street Mall findings in the coming months.

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