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Going smoke free and being alcohol compliant 

Providing a healthy environment for staff and customers includes consideration of the impacts of cigarettes and vapes, as well as how alcohol is consumed on your premises. There are a number of legislated responsibilities for business owners but we have pulled together some simple ways to make it easier to look after your staff and customers.

From August 2017 the Victorian Government banned smoking in outdoor areas at hospitality and food venues, and also outdoor drinking areas within 4 m of a dining area. In late 2019, the Mornington Peninsula Shire adopted a Smoke Free Environment Policyto encourage smoke free public areas on the Peninsula, including outdoor dining and service areas. 

The Federal Government introduced new vaping reforms effective from 1st January 2024. The reforms include banning the importation of disposable single use vapes, regardless of whether they contain nicotine. The reforms also include more funding for Quit services, particularly for young people. The aim of the ban was to not only help reduce the availability of vapes, but also reduce the environmental impact as well. 

Of the 169,000 or so people on the Mornington Peninsula, only around 22,000 are smokers. Apart from the direct effects on their health it is important to acknowledge that second-hand smoke can have some dire health consequences, cigarette butts and e-cigarettes create problematic litter.

With 147,000 local non-smokers there is a large incentive to make your business smoke free. 

Under the Tobacco Act smoking and vaping is banned in enclosed workplaces, in all outdoor dining areas and in a range of other locations. Knowing you obligations is the first step to compliance.

Here are some simple ways to improve your business in this area:

Notify your customers about your business being smoke and vape free by placing signage in clearly visible places. Download and display smoke and vape free posters or order free signage

Promote that your business is smoke/vape free on your website, in your newsletter and on your social media channels

Operating a totally smoke free business premises gives the best health outcomes for staff and customers.

Be aware of the rules and regulations around where people can smoke or vape on or near your business. These don’t only apply to businesses serving food.

If designated smoking/vaping areas are provided they should be positioned away from entrances, thoroughfares, air conditioning intake vents and enclosed spaces.

Cigarette butts should be routinely cleaned up and disposed of in a rubbish bin, not swept into gutters and drains. Butt litter has hazardous chemicals that can leach into aquatic ecosystems, degrading water quality and threatening marine life. Birds and aquatic animals can mistake butt litter for food and ingest them – causing serious digestive issues and even death.

One of the simplest things you can do is to have a Smoke and Vape Free policy. Make sure that you review it regularly – at least every 12 months.

Businesses that would like to develop a Smoke and Vape Free policy, can contact the Health Promotion Team at Peninsula Health for help in developing a policy.

Who does the policy affect? 

It should cover anyone that enters your business, whether it be staff, customers, even contractors. It also should cover people within a 4m range of your outdoor dining area. 

Does it discriminate? 

Legally it is non-discriminatory to include in your policy that: 

  • you do not wish to employ someone who smokes or 
  • you wish to employ someone who does smoke but they’re only allowed to smoke during their lunch breaks or 
  • you employ someone that does smoke and they cannot smoke one hour before their shift, during or one hour post-shift.

If you’re an owner or a manager, you have the authority to ask people to move on. But what do your staff do if you are not on site and someone sits out the front of your business smoking and refuses to leave? 

  • Offer your staff training on how to deal with customers that are smoking/vaping. This could be as part of the induction process, on-the-job-training or if there is a staff handbook this could be included in there as well.
  • Provide staff with a process to escalate dealing with non-compliant customers to more senior staff
  • Having smoke and vape free signage in your window can also help to support your staff.
  • If the smoker doesn’t respond to a polite request, you could have a letter (pre-signed by you) available to staff for them to show it to the smoker. While it becomes a bit of a formal process, it does mean that if it escalates and your staff needed to call the police to resolve it, they have  followed a clear process and you’ve done your part in terms of upholding that outdoor dining smoking law. 
  • To avoid a tricky situation, have clear steps outlined in your policy.

Why should I care? 

As a business-person and employer, we are connected to our community. Sometimes the smokers really do want to give up, and just need a bit of encouragement and support. It’s a simple thing to have some quality information on hand for staff (and customers) about services that can help. There is a range of posters, fliers and other information available from QUIT.

It’s not about being forceful, but it’s about offering the information and saying we are happy to support you. 

QUIT also provide free counselling, over the phone, via text or web chat to help support people to stop smoking or vaping. 

Health authorities have voiced concern about the rapid uptake of e-cigarettes particularly among young people, owing to a variety of associated adverse health impacts; among them:

  • the prospect of nicotine addiction and overdose, with a single vape having the means to deliver as much nicotine as 50 tobacco cigarettes.
  • that the liquid inside the e-cigarette may contain a variety of noxious substances including formaldehyde, arsenic, acrolein, benzene, nickel, toluene, tin, benzene, arsenic, chlorine and lead;
  • a hazards of lung damage and cancer; damage to internal organs; as well as oral health problems; and
  • the risk of vapes exploding or catching fire, causing burns to the face, hands, thighs, chest and genitals.

Licensed food businesses must comply with the state legislated alcohol requirements and where possible minimise the amount of alcohol consumed and make sure that it’s done safely and in accordance with your liquor license. 

There is a number of different notices your business has to have on display in a prominent place. These are required as part of your liquor license and include notices that cover not serving alcohol to intoxicated patrons and not supplying alcohol to under 18s. 

Every time you get a liquor license visit from the liquor licensing inspector your business is rated with three, four or five stars and this is published on their website. 

The vast majority of the Mornington Peninsula’s licensed premises, particularly cafes, are at five stars in liquor licensing, and feedback from Victoria Police is that local licensed venues, the cafes, restaurants particularly do a great job with liquor service. 

Victoria Police host regular local Liquor Accord meetings for the Southern Peninsula, Mornington and Hastings areas. These meeting bring together local licensed venues to discuss ways to address common issues.

Contact the Business and Industry Support team to find out the details of the next meeting in your area.

Content reviewed and updated: May 2024

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