BY ZAC CRELLIN
There are fears that the homeless community will be the unintended victim of Waverley Council’s proposed ban on smoking.
The proposed smoke-free zone, which would include Oxford Street Mall and Westfield Bondi Junction, would see offenders fined.
Waverley Greens Councillor Dominic Wy Kanak voted against the ban, claiming it would further exacerbate the vulnerable situation of homeless people in the area.
He told City Hub that it “would be a harsh ‘letter of the law’ imposition on vulnerable people sleeping rough on footpaths who, by circumstance, are essentially smoking at ‘home’.
Clr Wy Kanak was the only councillor to vote against the motion, which passed on November 17 in a council meeting.
Supporter of the motion, Liberal Waverley Councillor Angela Burrill, told City Hub that “there is no intention to use a smoking ban selectively to cause concern to homeless people.”
This sentiment was echoed by Labor Waverley Councillor Ingrid Strewe, who said the issue of homeless people was not even considered.
“It was done for health reasons, it was not done so that we could sneakily move on other people,” she said.
A Waverley Council spokesperson also told City Hub that the purpose of the ban was to encourage people to quit smoking and minimise second hand smoke inhalation.
The spokesperson said that the council would be “running an education campaign” aimed at “any affected groups”.
Clr Wy Kanak said that Bondi Junction has a prominent homeless community, in which smoking is common.
In the United States, smoke-free zones have been intentionally used to target homeless communities.
In the American city of Boulder, Colorado, a smoking ban removed homeless people from the city centre, while in Providence, Rhode Island, homeless people were selectively targeted.
In Burlington, Vermont, the homeless community was disproportionately affected by a smoking ban in parks.
A final decision on the location and arrangements of a trial of the smoke-free zone will be decided by council in December.