Living in Australia

Smoking Laws In Australia

There was a time in Australia when anyone could smoke anywhere; in offices, on public transport, in restaurants and bars and out in the open. You could even smoke on planes!

These days, however, smoking laws in Australia are very rigid and if you’re a smoker, with strict rules enforced on where people can legally smoke tobacco and where they cannot.

Here is the information you need.

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But first, why the hard line on smoking?

According to the Federal Government’s Department of Health, tobacco use is still Australia’s leading cause of preventable death and disability. It is touted as the reason why the nation’s anti-smoking laws are so strict and widespread.

Many people believe that the Australian government’s tough stance on smoking in public places is a revenue-raising exercise. (The federal government pulled in a massive $10.69 billion on the tobacco excise just in 2017!)

It is true that Australia is one of the most expensive places in the world to buy tobacco cigarettes – third only to Japan and New Zealand – because our taxes on these products are incredibly high. At more than one dollar per cigarette, it’s a very costly habit!

The Government says it’s a smart way to get people to cut back, but there has only been a 0.2 per cent reduction in smokers over the last three to four years. In any case, the laws apply, no matter what the public thinks is the reason.

When did the anti-smoking culture begin?

Since the 1970s, the cigarettes industry has been dealing with directives to reduce their impact on the market. Cigarette advertising was removed from TV and radio in 1976, then in print media in 1990.

Not long after, smoking was banned in restaurants and point-of-sale tobacco advertising was outlawed. Since 2012, it has been illegal to advertise tobacco on the internet and the same year, plain packaging for cigarettes was introduced and packs had to display graphic health warnings.

Today, aside from advertising, commercial media cannot even feature smoking in publicly-available media articles unless it’s in a negative context.

Where can you smoke in Australia?

First and foremost, you can smoke in your own home. Interestingly, however, people don’t tend to smoke indoors at home anymore. Most people will go outside to their balcony or yard to smoke and then go back inside. You can smoke in your car but not if there are minor children in the car. It’s considered social etiquette in Australia to not smoke inside anyone’s home – or their car – without asking permission or being invited to do so.

In Australian airports, smoking is generally banned. You can smoke only in designated areas outside the terminals. At Brisbane International Airport, there is a smoking balcony on Level 3 of the terminal. At Sydney International, the smoking area is in Terminal 1, before check-in. For information on smoking areas at all other airports, check when you arrive.

It’s best to assume that you can’t smoke anywhere in public in Australia, except in specifically designated areas outside public buildings. Some pubs and clubs have designated areas in their beer gardens or other outdoor areas.

Where can’t you smoke in Australia?

In general, the following apply to most areas in Australia however some states may be stricter or less rigid on some. It’s always best to check the rules locally to where you are staying or living.

  • Public drinking/dining places – Generally, you can’t legally smoke a cigarette outside a licensed café, restaurant, casino, nightclub or pub, and not within four metres of the entry of any public building. You definitely can’t smoke inside any of these types of venues.
  • Hospitals/airports/educational institutions – No smoking is allowed inside, and only allowed in designated areas. This includes aged care facilities, domestic and international airports, schools, kindergartens and universities.
  • Churches and other places of worship – You can’t smoke inside or within reasonable vicinity outside.
  • Entertainment venues – No smoking in theatres, cinemas, galleries, museums, libraries or places like bowling alleys and skating rinks.
  • Public transport – You can’t smoke at taxi ranks, bus stops or on train platforms.
  • Sporting facilities – No smoking is allowed at public swimming pools or sporting grounds and certainly not inside a shopping centre.
  • Smoking in cars – This is not illegal but what is illegal is smoking while minors – children aged 16 or younger – are in the car.
  • Jails/prisons – Since around 2012, even correctional facilities have become smoke-free. Prisoners are no longer allowed to smoke in jails.

Some local councils are also introducing smoke free precincts. As an example, by late 2019, North Sydney CBD is set to become the first Australian CBD to be completely smoke-free.

Smoke-free areas in outdoor public places

Smoking cigarettes is banned in the following types of outdoor public places:

  • Within 10 metres of children’s play equipment.
  • Public swimming pool complexes.
  • Spectator areas of public sporting grounds and recreational areas during organised sporting events.
  • Within four metres of a pedestrian entrance/exit of a public building.
  • Commercial outdoor dining areas.
  • Within 10 metres of a food fair stall.

What are the penalties for smoking in restricted areas?

On-the-spot fines can be handed out to smokers and can be as high as $2,000.

What about vaping?

The use of e-cigarettes is increasingly being seen as the same as smoking regular tobacco cigarettes. If you are in any doubt, and you are a vaper, it’s best to apply the same laws and avoid vaping in the same restricted areas.

Being a smoker in Australia

If you are a smoker, you will find it difficult to impossible to smoke anywhere around other people without your behaviour being considered intrusive. In stores, the cigarettes are set behind lock and key. You can purchase them in supermarkets, convenience stores, dedicated smoking and vaping stores, at petrol stations and some bottle shops (liquor stores).

The legal age for smoking is 18 and any person under 18 cannot purchase cigarettes, even for their parents or someone else.

It can be strange for international visitors to come to Australia and find that they are not allowed to smoke in most places. The ban is so widespread that Australians now feel it’s incredibly intrusive to smell smoke or be affected by it whenever they are out and about.


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