SMOKERS should prepare for the day when they are virtually confined to lighting up in their own backyards.They will not be able to smoke on footpaths, and feeding their habits in public will be restricted to a few designated smoking zones.A wide-ranging ban on outdoor smoking in public areas is the logical next step in stamping out smoking from public life altogether, according to Cancer Council NSW chief executive Andrew Penman.Dr Penman said it was becoming increasingly unacceptable that people could be subjected to drifts of smoke from fellow pedestrians when they walked down the street.”It should get to the stage where there are only certain places you can smoke a cigarette, that is, smoking-permitted parks or small squares,” he said. “We are recommending to the government that outdoor smoking needs to move . . . to the assumption that smoking is prohibited from all outdoor areas unless otherwise stated.”Smokers, and retailers who sold tobacco products, needed to prepare for a “post-tobacco world”, he said.NSW legislation already bans smoking from enclosed public areas, workplaces, hospitals and cars carrying passengers under 16. In what anti-smoking campaigners describe as a loophole, lighting up is still allowed in semi-enclosed rooms in pubs and clubs.But the smoking battleground has moved from indoors to outdoors, with councils leading the charge. Smoking is banned in many children’s playgrounds, sports fields, public pools, beaches, outdoor dining areas and bus shelters.Heart Foundation NSW chief executive Tony Thirlwell said 74 of the 152 councils in NSW had introduced smoke-free outdoor areas policies, with 14 of those policies covering alfresco dining areas.The latest councils to enact smoke-free policies are City of Sydney, Leichhardt and Waverley. Warringah is expanding its policy to cover bus shelters and the grounds of Brookvale Oval. Newcastle has banned smoking at bus shelters. Mr Thirlwell said the next step should be a state law banning smoking in all outdoor crowded areas, including concerts.Anne Jones, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health, known as ASH Australia, said councils had taken responsibility where the NSW government “was doing nothing”.Queensland and Victoria had been more active. “The focus up to now has been protecting people indoors,” she said. “Now, it’s crowded outdoor areas.”Ms Jones praised tough measures announced last week by the Rudd government to raise the prices of cigarettes by about $2 and mandate plain packaging by 2012. In another federal assault on the tobacco industry, displays of its products in shops will stop by July 1.Smoking kills 15,000 people a year in Australia. The government’s aim is to reduce the smoking rate from 16 per cent to 10 per cent within the decade.