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Smoking banned in aged care facilities except in designated outdoor areas

By Julie McStay31 Mar 2016

New Queensland legislation bans smoking in all Queensland residential aged care facilities except in designated outdoor smoking areas. The Tobacco and Other Smoking Products (Smoke-free Places) Amendment Act 2016 takes effect from 1 September 2016.  

What do the new changes mean?

Under the new smoking laws it will be an offence to smoke:

  • at a residential aged care facility, except while in a nominated outdoor smoking place
  • five metres beyond the boundary of the residential aged care facility (the buffer zone)

This means residents will not be able to smoke at an aged care facility or within the buffer zone, except within a nominated outdoor smoking place (exceptions also apply for neighbouring private properties and vehicles travelling through the buffer zone). The new laws also prohibit smoking in a motor vehicle whilst on facility grounds.

Nominated outdoor smoking place

Providers who choose to nominate an outdoor smoking area will need to ensure that the area is clearly designated and is not in a prohibited place, such as within 10 metres of children’s playground equipment.

More than one nominated outdoor smoking place can be designated at the one facility. If there is no nominated outdoor smoking place then smoking is completely banned.

New laws do not apply to Retirement Villages or Home Care services

The new smoking laws apply to residential aged care facilities and do not apply to retirement villages or aged care provided in residential premises (home care). However, providers must be mindful of existing smoking laws which prohibit smoking in residential premises while a person, such as a home care worker, is carrying on a business.

Smoking is inherently dangerous

Allowing residents, disabled by dementia and/or in terms of manual dexterity to smoke unsupervised, is intrinsically unsafe.  Approved providers who allow residents to smoke must have a comprehensive smoking policy which we recommend contains at least the following: 

  • A smoking risk assessment must be performed by an RN upon entry for all residents who smoke regardless of their level of impairment or cognitive deficit. The assessment must:
    • assess the ability of a resident to smoke safely;
    • be reviewed at regular intervals to monitor cognitive and physical disability;
    • take into account observations such as cigarette burns in clothing, singed fingers and near misses;
    • identify whether there are any physical or cognitive disabilities that might increase risk eg:
      • dementia, forgetfulness or lack of insight into risks;
      • lack of dexterity and/or sense of smell;
      • depression.
  • The results of the risk assessment will determine the appropriate level of supervision required.
  • Staff must remain close enough to the resident so that they can intervene should something go wrong, until the cigarette is butted out safely.
  • Cigarettes are not permitted to be kept in a resident’s possession.
  • Residents must wear smoking aprons at all times when smoking.
  • A procedure must be in place to ensure that any deterioration in the residents’ condition which might have an impact on motor skills is recorded in the care plan; and a mechanism to ensure that changes in the care plan are brought to the attention of the care staff and discussed with the resident’s family or representative.
  • Staff are required to undertake training in fire evacuations and emergency responses.
  • Any concerns raised by a resident’s family about the resident’s wellbeing, should be properly documented.

Handovers between staff should be conducted in a way which encourages staff members to become familiar with any adverse issues concerning the wellbeing of residents.

Timely review of policies and procedures

With the changes to take effect from 1 September 2016 it is now time to review your smoking policies and ensure all steps are taken to minimise risk and communicate any changes with residents, staff and visitors.  If you would like us to review your policies in view of the latest amendments or provide information sheets for staff and residents please let us know.  

This content is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice.  If you would like legal advice in relation to any specific issues relating to smoking at residential aged care facilities please contact Julie McStay, Director - Aged Care and Retirement Living, Hynes Legal.

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