Hunter smoking research aids law reform 

A STUDY of cigarette smoke exposure in multi-unit housing by Newcastle public health researcher Billie Bonevski has contributed to proposed NSW strata bylaw reforms that would ban smoking from common areas.

BILLIE BONEVSKI

BILLIE BONEVSKI

In a paper published in this week's journal Preventative Medicine, Associate Professor Bonevski, from the Hunter Medical Research Institute, drew on data from about 161,000 participants in the 2012-13 NSW 45-and-up study.

More than 12,000 people, including 8000 non-smokers, were routinely exposed to smoke in their homes for eight hours or more a week. More than 7000 were exposed for at least eight hours a day.

Multi-unit dwellers were 19 per cent more likely to be exposed than those living in houses, and more women than men were likely to be exposed because they tended to spend more time at home.

Associate Professor Bonevski's study spurred the Action on Smoking and Health Australia health group to seek reliable data on second-hand smoke exposure.

"I was surprised by the number of people reporting exposure to second-hand smoke in their homes and workplaces, because we tend to think of Australia as a mostly non-smoking society with a lot of existing restrictions on smoking in public places," she said.

"It wasn't surprising, however, that we found exposure was highest among those living in postcode areas classified as 'lower socio-economic status'.

"In Australia the general population smoking rate is 15-18 per cent, whereas among low income-earners, the unemployed and those with mental illness rates are 50 per cent and as high as 90 per cent."

Living in a smoky environment tended to increase take-up rates and made it harder for people to quit, she said.

The NSW government is expected to introduce bylaws relating to smoking in strata-title buildings in mid-2014.

"It's the best feeling, as a researcher, to see the NSW government respond," Associate Professor Bonevski said.

"The data is good, solid, conclusive evidence that second-hand smoking is a problem."