SINGAPORE - Smokers who puff away outside designated areas in Orchard Road could soon be slapped with fines, as the authorities move towards full implementation of the smoking ban from next Monday (April 1).
A three-month advisory period, in which those caught smoking outside designated smoking areas (DSAs) are let off with warnings, will end on Sunday.
Those who flout the rules from next Monday may face composition fines of $200 or court fines of up to $1,000.
The National Environment Agency (NEA) said in a statement on Friday that the advisory approach was meant to give the public sufficient time to adjust, after Singapore's famed shopping belt was turned into a no-smoking zone.
From January to mid-March, the number of advisories issued by the NEA dropped by more than 70 per cent, from an average of 1,900 advisories a day in the first week of January to an average of 550 advisories a day in mid-March.
The NEA started to issue written advisories instead of verbal ones to smoking offenders in Orchard Road from March 18.
Following this move, the number of advisories dipped further to 87 a day, it said.
This represented a 95 per cent reduction in advisories issued since the start of the three-month advisory period.
The NEA added that a majority of the smokers who were advised by its officers and volunteers against lighting up in prohibited areas had been receptive.
In a poll of 539 people over seven weeks from January to March, the NEA found that 82 per cent of the respondents agreed that the amount of second-hand tobacco smoke in the main Orchard Road stretch has been reduced.
Sixty-two per cent of them noted that the overall visitor experience has improved.
About 20 per cent of those polled were smokers.
With the end of the advisory period, the NEA has contacted the various building management to remind them to display sufficient "No Smoking By Law" signs, use bins without ashtrays, and place signs at entrances to direct smokers to the nearest DSA.
They should also inform their tenants and staff about the rules.
Currently, at least 50 DSAs located at regular intervals within the precinct's no-smoking zone have been set up.
Most of them are marked as yellow boxes outside shopping centres and hotels.
From April, the authorities will continue its efforts to raise the public's awareness of the no-smoking zone and the locations of the DSAs.
There will be floor stickers at selected locations along Orchard Road's main pedestrian thoroughfare and electronic posters will also be displayed at the baggage claim areas in Changi Airport.
Brochures will also be available at tourist information racks at the airport's arrival halls, and advertisements will be put up at Changi Airport MRT station.
The NEA said that it will take a strict stance against smokers who flout the law.
Last year, more than 30,000 tickets were issued for smoking in prohibited areas.
It is also an offence to smoke or hold any lit cigarette or tobacco product in a no-smoking area, as these still emit harmful smoke.
The agency also encouraged members of the public to remind smokers not to light up in prohibited places and be considerate when smoking in public areas.
Dr Sue Lo, the director and a senior consultant medical oncologist at The Harley Street Heart & Cancer Centre, said: "By segregating smokers from the non-smokers, it removes the risk of exposure to the non-smokers, as well as reducing the temptation faced by smokers who are trying to quit the habit."
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.