BY ZAC CRELLIN
There are fears that the homeless community will be the unintended victims of Waverley Council’s proposed ban on smoking.
The proposed smoke-free zone, encompassing Oxford St Mall which extends through Westfield Bondi Junction, would see offenders fined.
Waverly Greens Councillor Dominic Wy Kanak voted against the ban because he said this would further exacerbate the situation of homeless and other vulnerable people.
Clr. Wy Kanak told City Hub that this “will be a harsh ‘letter of the law’ imposition on vulnerable sleeping rough homeless people who ironically by smoking whilst sitting at their public footpath ‘camps’ are in essence smoking at ‘Home’”.
Clr. Wy Kanak was the only councillor to vote against the motion, which was passed last Tuesday November 17.
Supporter of the motion, Liberal Waverley Councillor Angela Burrill said 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 that this was not even considered.
“It was done for health reasons, it was not done so that we could sneakily move on other people,” he said.
[A spokesperson from Waverly Council told City Hub that the purpose of the ban is to mitigate the dangers of passive smoking.]
A 2013 Columbia University study found that while outdoor passive smoking posed no health risks, smoking bans did help de-normalise smoking.
Although council does not plan to engage with the homeless community during the consultation, Clr. Burrill stated that “councillors will consider the community feedback and all the issues raised”.
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, and in Burlington, Vermont, the homeless community was disproportionately affected by a smoking ban in parks.