Clubs fear changes could go up in smoke

A $1 million investment in a smoking zone at the West Tweed Seagulls club may be at risk if the Supreme Court upholds a NSW Health interpretation of new state government laws regulating smoking in licensed clubs. The peak clubs body, NSW Clubs, is seeking a legal interpretation of the smoking laws, which require smoking areas to be 75 per cent open, after NSW Health inspectors began issuing warn- ing letters to clubs relating to covered sections of outdoor smoking areas. The row threatens to fine clubs $5500 for each person smoking in a non-com- plying area and could force club% patrons to abandon smoking areas, most purpose-built in line with new% anti-smoking laws effective since July. Seagulls chief executive Wayne Ken- drigan yesterday told the Daily News his club had been visited by NSW Health inspectors who indicated they were not sure if the Seagulls smoking area was compliant. "Their interpretation is very% narrow," Mr Kendrigan said. "They have acknowledged we% comply with our interpretation, but they say it doesn't necessarily mean we are right. "We're pretty certain we are right. "We have not received any breach notices or notices to comply." Mr Kendrigan said NSW Health had declined to offer any guidance on inter- preting the smoking-area laws before --------------- --------------- they were introduced. He said it was possible the litigation could use some clubs as test cases to interpret the new laws. Tweed Clubs chair Rob Smith said it was a great shame the regulations were written in such a complex way so that Clubs NSW and NSW Health were both able to interpret them in good faith differently. Mr Smith, the Twin Towns club chief executive, said none of Twin Towns' smoking areas were under a cloud. "Clubs across the state have spent millions of dollars building outdoor smoking areas, and now all that is% being put at risk," Mr Smith said. "If those areas are deemed not to be open enough, they could have smoking bans applied to them. "It's an issue each club will have to sort out, clarification is obviously% vital."



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