Now Bondi Beach surfers face smoking ban

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The Independent Online

First dogs were banned, then ball games and frisbees. Now smoking may be outlawed on Bondi, Sydney's most famous beach, raising an outcry among the laid-back surfing population.

The local council is investigating the logistics of making Bondi Beach a no-smoking zone, following the lead of another Sydney municipality, which this week banned cigarettes from Manly, also a popular surfing beach.

Peter Moscatt, mayor of Waverley, which covers Bondi Beach, said that at any given time there were 700,000 cigarette butts there.

"They don't bio-degrade, and take up to 12 years to decompose," Mr Moscatt said. "They end up in the water, harming wildlife and making swimming unpleasant. There have been reports of cigarette filters being found in the stomachs of whales, fish and birds that mistake them for food."

A ban, if agreed, would extend to the neighbouring beaches of Tamarama and Bronte, and to children's playgrounds and parks.

Parents who take small children to Sydney beaches complain that their offspring pick up cigarette butts and stuff them in their mouths.

But the measure is likely to be unpopular with local surfers, who are accustomed to flinging themselves on to the sand for a smoke after riding the waves.

Councils will also face problems enforcing a smoking ban. Manly and Bondi beaches are so packed on summer weekends that inspectors will be hard pressed to thread their way between sunbathers. Manly is only the second municipality in the world to stamp out smoking on beaches - Santa Monica in California led the way last year. Australia already has legislation banning smoking in most public places, including restaurants and many pubs.

The mayor of Manly, Peter Macdonald, said the council had voted unanimously to take the step because of the environmental impact of discarded butts as well as the dangers to children of passive smoking. No-smoking signs are to be erected along Manly's picturesque crescent of golden sand, just north of the entrance to Sydney Harbour, and near children's play areas.

"I guess this is a bit of trailblazing, but the important thing that's going to come out of it is it de-normalises smoking," Dr Macdonald said.

It was not clear when the Manly ban will come into force, or what penalties will be imposed on errant smokers.

According to Clean Up Australia, an environmental group, 32 billion cigarette butts are discarded around the country every year. Mr Moscatt said littering was a major problem, despite education campaigns encouraging smokers to dispose of their butts responsibly and a programme of giving away personal ashtrays. Waverley council plans to investigate whether it has the legal power to establish and enforce a ban.

"Banning smoking on beaches will have significant environmental benefits, and reduce passive smoking in summer when the beaches are crowded," Mr Moscatt said.

Other Australian councils, including those responsible for beaches in the southern state of Victoria, are also considering following suit.