Government has no plans to make smoking rooms compulsory in public buildings: Amy Khor

Government has no plans to make smoking rooms compulsory in public buildings: Amy Khor

FILE PHOTO: An ash tray with cigarette butts is pictured in Hinzenbach
An ashtray with cigarette butts. (File photo: Reuters)

SINGAPORE: The Government does not plan to make smoking rooms compulsory in public places like sports complexes, office buildings and shopping malls, Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor said in Parliament on Tuesday (Feb 6).

“With smoking already disallowed in most buildings with public access, the Government has no plans to mandate the provision of smoking rooms in such premises,” she said.

Dr Khor was responding to a question by Member of Parliament (MP) for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC Chong Kee Hiong, who had asked if the Government would consider building smoking rooms in public buildings to contain secondhand smoke.

Dr Khor explained that having a smoking room would reduce but not eliminate exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.

“It could seep into other parts of the building and pose health risks to persons in enclosed spaces,” she noted.

Nevertheless, Dr Khor said that under the Smoking (Prohibition in Certain Places) Act, smoking rooms have been made available in certain public places like Changi Airport, pubs and discotheques.

The need for such smoking rooms should be determined by premise managers as they have a “legal duty” to prohibit smoking within their premises, she said.

“This is provided that the smoking room is independently ventilated and not required to be used by any person in the course of his work,” she added.

In addition, Dr Khor stated that premise owners can designate smoking areas more than 5m from the entrance and exit of a public building.

This will be piloted at Orchard Road from July, when it is gazetted as a smoke-free zone where smoking will be banned in public areas, except at a number of designated smoking areas (DSA).

“This means that smokers will not be able to light up while walking within the zone,” she said, adding that Orchard Road was chosen because of its high footfall.

When MP for Nee Soon GRC Lee Bee Wah asked if DSAs could be implemented in housing estates, Dr Khor said she would look into it.

“We need to study the results of this DSA pilot to determine how effective it is in reducing smoking in other public areas, getting smokers to be considerate to smoke only in the DSA, as well as the location design of the DSAs,” she said.

She added that the Government would also explore the feasibility of designating more smoke-free zones to achieve its long-term goal of prohibiting smoking in all public places.

As for residents who suffer from cigarette smoke wafting in from neighbours’ homes, Dr Khor said smoking within a residence is beyond the jurisdiction of the Government.

“We don’t have a smoking prohibition within homes, so our advice will be for the affected resident to have a discussion with the neighbour to try and resolve this amicably,” she said. “If not get assistance from a community mediation centre.”

Dr Khor stressed that when it comes to curbing inconsiderate smoking behavior, enforcement is not the single solution.

“We need to urge smokers to be socially responsible and considerate when smoking so as not to cause disamenities to others,” she added.

“Family and friends of smokers as well as the public in general could help to reinforce the right social norms through nudges and reminders in order to address such issues.”

To that end, Dr Khor said the National Environment Agency (NEA) will work with Town Councils and grassroots organisations to educate smokers to be more considerate.

“If residents actually have information or see acts of errant smokers smoking in prohibited areas, they could provide info to NEA, and NEA will conduct investigations,” she said.

Source: CNA/hz