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Smoke-free Commercial Outdoor Dining for NSW

NSW Ministry of Health
Project Added:
7 January 2016
Last updated:
7 January 2016

Smoke-free Commercial Outdoor Dining for NSW


A NSW Health public notice campaign was implemented using stakeholder engagement and social marketing strategies, to increase awareness of the smoking ban in commercial outdoor dining areas enacted on 6 July 2015.

This project was the recipient of the Preventive Health Category in the 2015 NSW Health Awards. Watch a video on this project.


To raise awareness of the new smoking ban in commercial outdoor dining areas in support of high compliance.


  • Increases awareness of the ban, which promotes compliance and reduces population exposure to harmful second-hand smoke.
  • Collaboration with stakeholders extends the reach and effectiveness of the campaign.
  • Engages vulnerable groups such as culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) and Aboriginal communities.
  • Supports enforcement, as ignorance could be used as a defence against prosecution and online reporting by the community guides enforcement efforts.
  • Contributes to de-normalisation of smoking in society.


The social costs of tobacco use in NSW are high, estimated at $8.4 billion annually. It is the largest single preventable cause of death and disease in Australia. One in every two smokers will die prematurely as a result of being a smoker. Smoking greatly increases the risk of many cancers and is a major cause of heart disease. There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke and it causes a range of serious health problems, especially in children.

Despite all the advances in tobacco control and changing community attitudes, smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease and death in NSW – accounting for around 5,460 deaths and 46,000 hospitalisations a year.

The NSW Tobacco Strategy 2012-2017 provides a framework to help NSW reduce smoking rates. Targets are:

  • to reduce smoking rates by 3% by 2015 for non-Aboriginal people and 4% for Aboriginal people
  • to reduce smoking rates in non-Aboriginal pregnant women by 0.5% per year and 2% per year for pregnant Aboriginal women
  • to protect the community from second-hand smoke through smoking bans in key outdoor public places.

NSW is at the forefront of world class tobacco control legislation. Amendments to the Smoke-free Environment Act 2000 have introduced a suite of tobacco reforms which prevent smoking in a number of outdoor public areas. Smoking was banned from 6 July 2015 in commercial outdoor dining areas and within four metres of a pedestrian access point to cafes, licensed premises and restaurants.

The NSW Ministry of Health required a campaign to communicate these changes to  hospitality venue proprietors and their patrons.


The campaign took a unique, multi-layered approach to raising awareness of the smoking ban. Innovative messaging and content made a ‘dry’ legislative message engaging to the target audience. This was achieved through:

  • original creative concepts that tested well with target audiences, including a new icon to communicate smoke-free messaging
  • using creative imagery in Facebook posts that presented the ban in highly relatable contexts. Humorous, colloquial language was used to communicate the serious subject of penalties in a friendly way
  • a media strategy that identified diverse local case studies and issued a series of media releases counting down to the ban
  • visits to Arabic proprietors to ensure they were aware of the ban, particularly with regard to water-pipe use. This was conducted in a sensitive and culturally-appropriate way, with messaging about water-pipes integrated into mainstream communications to avoid any perception of unfair targeting
  • partnerships with peak hospitality associations, government agencies and non-government organisations, to extend the reach of campaign messages and to encourage businesses to prepare for the ban
  • development of a group comprising contacts from all local health districts, who met monthly to provide critical advice on local campaign implementation strategies
  • revision of the online reporting form, to enable reporting of breaches of smoke-free outdoor dining and guide enforcement efforts to places where bans are being broken.

This campaign has been implemented statewide. Advertising channels included radio in mainstream, regional, priority languages (Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese and Arabic) and Aboriginal communities, as well as social media and digital (mobile, web display and café screens). Advertising activity was supported locally through promotional activities in restaurant precincts, presentations to Liquor Accords and on-site distribution of bilingual information packs to Arabic-speaking proprietors, particularly in relation to water-pipe smoking. 

Project status

Sustained - the initiative has been implemented and is sustained in standard business. 

Key dates

  • 6 July 2015 onwards – Compliance monitoring and enforcement. 
  • 6 July 2015 – Enactment of a smoking ban in commercial outdoor dining areas.
  • May to July 2015 – Public education advertising campaign.
  • October 2014 to July 2015 – Stakeholder engagement and communications.


The campaign was based on a close working relationship between the Ministry of Health and hospitality industry peak bodies: the Australian Hotels Association, Restaurant and Caterers Association and Clubs NSW.

The campaign was strongly supported by a number of agencies and non-government organisations including the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing, the NSW Office of the Small Business Commissioner, the Multicultural Health Communications Service, the Arabic Council of Australia, the NSW Cancer Institute, the Heart Foundation (NSW) and the Cancer Council (NSW).

Local health districts and many local councils extended the reach of key messages and provided ‘the face’ of the campaign at the local level.


  • The reach of campaign advertising was extended by strong stakeholder participation as shown from an independent external evaluation of the stakeholder engagement strategy.
  • Media relations activity resulted in over 130 media items across NSW (almost all positive) in the five months before the ban.
  • The campaign increased awareness by 23% (from 59% to 82%) while maintaining high community support of over 82%.
  • There were indicators of good engagement with target audiences such as strong click-through-rates to the website from internet and social media ads and a surge in calls (743) to the Tobacco Information Line in the advertising period.
  • The awareness and social support built by the campaign has resulted in 98% compliance to date.
  • The campaign was excellent value for money, augmented by in-house design and production of campaign ads and material. The savings in creative production allowed for an additional three weeks of advertising while external stakeholder activities added at least $100,000 to the in-kind budget.


  •  2015 NSW Health Award  Recipient – Preventive Health 

Lessons Learnt

  • The advertising strategy and the collaborative media plan were effective. Radio, social and digital ads worked together well.
  • The staged approach (industry ahead of patrons) worked well.
  • Stakeholder engagement was strongly enhanced with a reasonable lead time.
  • Concerns of restaurants proprietors offering water-pipe were alleviated through consultation and a range of universal and targeted communications. 



Edwina Macoun
Senior Policy Officer
Centre for Population Health, NSW Ministry of Health
Phone: 02 9391 9570

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