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Several City of Sydney councillors have backed calls for a blanket ban on outdoor smoking in the Sydney CBD.

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Australia spokesperson Stafford Sanders this week called for smoking to be banned in all public spaces in the city centre, including al fresco dining and drinking areas, pedestrian malls, footpaths, parks and playgrounds.

Mr Sanders, who compared smoking in public to “walking around waving a blanket of asbestos fibres”, said it was high time the City of Sydney Council prohibited smoking throughout the CBD, where high population densities and crowds made passive smoking virtually unavoidable.

“If you’re walking behind a smoker in a crowded street, there’s nowhere to go and no way to avoid breathing second-hand smoke,” said Mr Sanders.

“All the medical evidence shows that second-hand smoke kills. It contains over 250 toxic compounds and is harmful in any dose.”

Mr Sanders’ call follows a proposal in Melbourne which, if adopted, would see the Victorian capital adopt some of the world’s toughest anti-smoking measures.

City of Melbourne Councillor Richard Foster last week called for “a complete smoking ban” in all public spaces, reported The Age.

Mr Sanders said he wanted the same approach adopted in Sydney, and was especially concerned for hospitality workers.

“This is an issue for the general public, but it’s also a workplace health and safety issue, particularly for workers in bars, clubs and restaurants, who are exposed to second-hand smoke day after day,” said Mr Sanders.

“It’s very concerning, because the toxic effects of cigarette smoke are cumulative.”

Numerous City of Sydney councillors agreed with Mr Sanders.

Councillor Angela Vithoulkas from the Living Sydney Party said while she was mindful of smokers’ rights, “smoking is a nasty, dirty habit that makes people very sick”.

Greens Councillor Irene Doutney said: “I support a smoking ban but I must say, somewhat grudgingly.

“I don’t like smoking but I feel we have to be careful not to make people feel like lepers.”

Labor Councillor Linda Scott enthusiastically supported a smoking ban. She shared Ms Doutney’s concerns about marginalising smokers but said the University of Sydney provided a blueprint for the City of Sydney to follow.

“The university banned smoking across its campus early last year, and provides a good model for how to do it sensibly, sensitively and respectfully,” she said.

Liberal Councillor Christine Forster said “as a reformed smoker” she also supported a smoking ban – but her Liberal colleague Edward Mandla saw things differently.

“What’s next? Soon, smoking will be illegal altogether and the Mexican drug cartels will be rubbing their hands with glee, doing a rip-roaring black market trade,” said Mr Mandla.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore took a ‘middle way’ approach.

“The City of Sydney already discourages smoking on health and environmental grounds, and the City policy bans smoking at our venues, grandstands, sporting ovals, aquatic centres and children’s play areas,” said the Lord Mayor.

“A ban on smoking in the public domain would have significant health benefits, however this is a NSW Government responsibility.”

But Mr Sanders urged the City to consider a ban on smoking in al fresco dining spaces, at least.

“A NSW Government ban on al fresco smoking comes into effect from July 2015 but there’s no reason why the City of Sydney can’t do it straight away,” said Mr Sanders.

“They could make granting of al fresco licences provisional, subject to being smoke-free.”

Over 40 NSW local government areas have already banned smoking in al fresco dining areas, including Leichhardt, Marrickville, Newcastle, North Sydney, Parramatta and Waverley.