Light up... but only at six smoking points

Light up... but only at six smoking points

SINGAPORE - Singapore's first community-led smoke-free zone started yesterday, giving smokers fewer places to light up in the constituency of Nee Soon South.

Under a one-year pilot initiative launched yesterday by Grassroots Adviser Lee Bee Wah, smoking will be allowed only in six designated areas in Nee Soon South Zone D, which spans 28 blocks.

The smoke-free zone will cover communal spaces in Nee Soon South Zone D, including the Yishun Stadium, Sports Hall and Recreation Centre, as well as residential blocks 816 to 849. It will include open-air areas like grass patches and basketball courts.

Depending on feedback from residents after the pilot, the smoke-free zone may be extended to other areas in Nee Soon South, said Ms Lee.

However, smokers will not be penalised if they are caught lighting up away from the designated points.

"It's a voluntary ground-up initiative by residents," said Ms Lee. "Educating the residents (on where the smoking points are) would be more effective than enforcement because they'll do it willingly."

Supported by the National Environment Agency and Health Promotion Board (HPB), the initiative follows the extension of a smoking ban one year ago to include areas such as covered linkways and walkways, outdoor hospital compounds and common areas of residential buildings. Smokers who flout the law may be liable to a fine of up to $1,000.

The new smoking points, each measuring three by three metres, are located in open-air areas like grass patches. Each has partitions on three sides, an umbrella shelter and a cigarette-disposal bin.

At least 20 resident volunteers, or "smoke-free ambassadors", have been trained by the HPB. They will be sent out every month to patrol the areas and encourage smokers to light up only at the designated areas.

Resident Lee Beng Huat, 65, who smoked for 30 years before quitting, welcomed the move. He said: "When someone smokes near you, you'll feel uncomfortable. People with asthma might be more sensitive to this and start coughing."

However, Mr John Lim, 53, a long-time Yishun resident who runs his own signage business, said he may not abide by the new initiative.

"If I want to smoke on the way to the MRT station and I'm in a rush, you can't expect me to go specially to the designated smoking point."

This article by The Straits Times was published in MyPaper,  a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.

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