The long-term plan of the National Environment Agency (NEA) is to eventually make Singapore smoke-free, except for specific designated smoking areas.
This plan will bring welcome relief to those who have had to tolerate smokers puffing indiscriminately in public places.
Yet, while the intention behind this plan is laudable, given the known harmful effects of smoking, this move must be handled carefully, taking into account the sentiments and needs of smokers and the public.
After all, it is not illegal for adults to buy and smoke cigarettes. The Government also derives revenue from its taxation. Moreover, smoking is addictive and, despite their resolve, many do find it hard to kick the habit.
It is unclear how exactly the NEA intends to go about its plan, and where these designated smoking areas will be.
Nevertheless, one might hazard a guess that these smoking areas will be generally more remote, so that human traffic will be lower.
However, these less accessible locations may place an onerous burden on smokers, especially during work hours and in inclement weather.
Also, if the facilities are spartan, hot and uncomfortable, take-up and subsequent compliance may be negatively impacted.
Perhaps, then, the NEA may consider looking into the possibility of working with industry to come up with smoking facilities, such as rooms or portable cubicles.
These facilities, equipped with extractor fans, can be coupled with the appropriate filters, for example, activated carbon filters, to trap the gaseous toxins, pollutants and odour from cigarette smoke before it is released into the environment.
As with the use of public facilities, such as toilets, a charge may be collected for their upkeep.
If feasible, this will improve the overall quality of air and reduce the exposure of passers-by to second-hand and side-stream smoke, which are known to have deleterious health effects as well.
With the extraction of cigarette smoke, the room will be more appealing to the smokers themselves, potentially reducing their already significant risk of cancer, as well as preventing their clothes and hair from stinking with the smell of cigarette smoke.
Daniel Ng Peng Keat (Dr)
This article was first published on May 27, 2015.
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