It seems likely that ultimately Victoria, along with the other Australian states and territories, will ban smoking in all public spaces. As in Queensland, there are likely to be some exemptions allowed in some areas in hotels and clubs, permitting patrons to smoke but not to be served food or alcohol in the same area.
The steady decline in the number of smokers over the last thirty years would seem to make this inevitable. Smokers are now such a minority that pressure of numbers will have them lose any popular or political debate in which non-smokers are seeking to have public areas made smoke-free.
However, this issue does have wider implications. How can it be appropriate to allow a section of the population to buy a product which they are only able to consume within their own homes? This seems particularly problematic when for many smokers nicotine is a highly addictive drug and their capacity to control its consumption is limited.
The anomaly stems from the fact, which has often been noted, that if tobacco manufacturers were to seek permission legally to market their product for the first time in this century, no public health authority would allow them to do so.
The tobacco industry and those who consume their product are anachronisms. The industry is still enormously wealthy and influential and their product is not about to be prohibited. This is apart from all the socially undesirable consequences that prohibition of any widely-consumed drug has been shown to have. Instead, public health authorities have been conducting a war of attrition against the industry, progressively limiting where tobacco products can be consumed, who can buy them and how they can be promoted. The ultimate aim of this campaign is that the industry will become unsustainable and its product virtually unused.
In the meantime, current consumers of cigarettes are caught in the gap between current legal production and ultimate prohibition. They are disproportionately drawn from among the least well-educated and the most socially disadvantaged. All the wider community can do is to assist them to give up their habit and to treat them politely and respectfully when asking them to butt out.