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No smoking in parks FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the smoking ban in NSW national parks.

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Why have you banned smoking in NSW national parks?

  • NSW national parks receive over 30 million visits a year. Banning smoking in national parks will further increase the community's enjoyment of, and safety in, these green open spaces.
  • The smoking ban will reduce the risk of accidental fire started by unextinguished cigarette butts and reduce littering in national parks.
  • The ban also has obvious health benefits and will continue to ensure NSW is a world leader in phasing out smoking in public places.

Where does the smoking ban apply?

  • From May 1 2016 smoking is prohibited in all parks, with some exceptions.
  • The smoking ban applies to picnic areas, campgrounds, accommodations, beaches, lookouts, walking tracks, and on national parks roads.
  • Smoking is already banned in certain outdoor areas under the Smoke-Free Environment Act 2000. This ban applies near children's play equipment, public swimming pools, sports grounds, public transport stops, outdoor dining areas and within 4 metres of the entrance to a public building.

Where does it not apply?

  • The ban doesn't apply to commercial accommodation areas subject to a lease or licence, such as hotels. The ban also doesn't apply to private residences located within a park.
  • The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) will work closely with leaseholders and licensees to help minimise the litter and fire risk associated with recreational smoking. To this end, NPWS will support leaseholders and licensees in implementing smoking bans within lease/licence areas, where this is requested.
  • NPWS may also exempt some areas in a park from the ban in exceptional circumstances. For example, New Year's Eve celebrations in Sydney Harbour National Park.

Will the ban prevent bushfires?

  • Banning smoking will help reduce a source of bushfire risk, keeping park visitors and local communities safer.
  • Around 50% of bushfires in NSW national parks have a suspicious or unknown cause.
  • In Victoria, discarded cigarette butts are estimated to cause about 25 bushfires a year in parks and forests. An unextinguished butt can smoulder for up to 3 hours.

How will this ban benefit the environment?

  • Litter surveys confirm cigarette butts form over a third (35%) of the measured litter in NSW.
  • NSW has committed to having the lowest per capita litter count in Australia by 2016. This equates to reducing littered items by around 40% by 2016.
  • Cigarette butts contain hazardous chemicals such as nicotine, cadmium, arsenic and lead that are partially filtered out during smoking. When a butt is discarded, these chemicals leach into the environment, contaminating our waterways and land. 
  • Cigarette butts contain over 4,000 chemicals, including 43 known carcinogens such as ammonia, nitrogen dioxide, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide and arsenic. 
  • Cigarette butts are made from cellulose acetate, a form of plastic. They aren't made from cotton wool or paper.
  • Cigarette butts can also be ingested by our wildlife, wash into waterways, and spoil the beauty of our natural places.

How will the ban be enforced?

  • NPWS will concentrate on working with the NSW Government on community education campaigns and peer pressure as a priority.
  • In our busiest parks NPWS has erected no smoking signs in visitor use areas and at major park entrances. No smoking messages will also appear on visitor publications and the NPWS website.
  • On-the-spot fines will be issued as a last resort when the ban is well understood by the community.

Will park rangers have to enforce the ban?

  • The initiative will focus on community education, with on-the-spot fines used only as a last resort.

What on-the-spot fines will apply?

  • You can be fined $250 under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act for throwing a cigarette butt from a car.
  • Under the Rural Fires Act 1997, you can be fined $660 for throwing a lit cigarette butt, match or other ‘incandescent material’. In a total fire ban, the fine is doubled to $1320.
  • Under the National Parks and Wildlife Regulation, you can be fined $300 for smoking in a park.
  • On-the-spot fines will only be used as last resort.

People standing on a rock looking out to the point. Photo:David Finnegan