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Two smoking cabins set up at Clementi public housing estates amid rise in complaints of secondhand smoke

SINGAPORE: Two designated smoking cabins have been set up at public housing estates in Clementi in a move aimed at addressing a rise in complaints of secondhand smoke.

The smoking cabins, which were launched on Wednesday (Jun 30), are located at Clementi Ridges and Trivelis. Both estates are in Clementi Avenue 4.

This comes amid an increase in complaints of secondhand smoke in the neighbourhood as more people work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Ms Sim Ann, Grassroots Adviser for the Bukit Timah Division.

The cabins will remain on site for at least a year to allow sufficient time for the evaluation of their effectiveness.

READ: Fewer tickets issued for littering and smoking offences in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions: NEA

"AS COMFORTABLE AS SMOKERS' HOMES"

The grassroots team decided to embark on the trial following a townhall discussion with more than 70 residents from these estates.

Residents were in support of the smoking cabins, noting that their designs would have to be “more than basic” to be successful, said Ms Sim.

“Our hypothesis is that for smokers to want to use a (designated smoking point) regularly instead of smoking in their own homes, (it) must be conveniently located and at least as comfortable as smokers’ homes, if not more so. The main factor to overcome is daytime heat,” said the Bukit Timah Constituency Office in a press release.

The smoking cabin at Trivelis measures about 3m by 2.5m and is air-conditioned. The unit, developed by Smoking Cabin SG, is enclosed and fitted with a filtering system. Similar cabins have previously been deployed at other locations such as one-north.

The cabin at Clementi Ridges, which measures about 4m by 3m, is an open-air unit developed by ST Engineering. It is fitted with a cooling system that will run for 15 minutes a time when a button is pressed.

“It runs on very sustainable cooling, and we have open ventilation, ensuring it is a very clean and comfortable environment for the users, as well as the non-user,” said Mr Gareth Tang, senior vice-president for urban environment solutions at the firm.

“The system consumes very low energy, doesn't generate any waste heat. In fact, every hour, it only costs 30 cents to run, and on standby, it’s nearly negligible,” he added.

The costs for set-up and utilities required for these spaces have been covered by donors, said Ms Sim.

FOUR AT A TIME

In view of COVID-19 safe distancing measures, each unit can only accommodate up to four people, and users must use TraceTogether to check in.

The smoking cabin at the Trivelis unit is fitted with a closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera.

Ms Sim said that the authorities are prepared to shut the units if crowding becomes an issue.

This is not the first time designated smoking points have been trialled in public housing estates. Similar pavilions have previously been set up at Nee Soon South constituency for this purpose.

But Minister for Sustainability and Environment, Grace Fu, said in a written parliamentary reply in February this year that recent observations showed that such measures have not reduced public feedback on smoking.

Ms Sim said in the release on Wednesday: “We don’t know for sure what the outcome of the (designated smoking point) experiment will be, but as long as smoking in one’s home remains legal, we have to find a practical solution to mitigate the effects of secondhand smoke in residential settings.”

READ: NEA received an average of more than 3,000 smoking complaints a month in 2020: Amy Khor

Residents that CNA spoke to welcomed the establishment of these designated smoking points.
 
“The design is quite okay and it’s good that there’s places to sit,” said Mr Palani, a 41-year-old resident who was using the shelter at Clementi Ridges. 

Ms Carina Low, a non-smoker who lives in the estate, added: “I think it’s a really good gesture for the neighbours. Sometimes when neighbours smoke, I can smell the smoke from the balcony and it’s really irritating.”

Mr Wang, a resident who was using the cabin in the Trivelis estate, said the air-conditioned unit would be particularly useful on hot, sunny days.

He added: “I also think (the fireproof ashbin) would help with the issue of littering … and it could help get rid of fire hazards.”

A fellow resident, Mr Menezes, also said the unit was a “great idea” that would encourage smokers to refrain from smoking at home. 

But he also suggested: “To entice people to come in, a walkway or shelter would be good too for when it rains - but it might be asking for too much!”

Responding to questions on whether these cabins could be rolled out to more estates islandwide, Ms Sim, who is also Senior Minister of State for National Development, said the outcome of the trials must first be studied.

To that end, the Ministry of Sustainability and Environment and Temasek Polytechnic will be working together to review the effectiveness of these designated smoking points.

“I see this potentially as another way forward in resolving the concern of secondhand smoke … But I don't think it can be decided by any one agency and it is something that will have to be discussed,” Ms Sim said.

She added that some metrics that could be tracked include usage rates, and whether complaints about secondhand smoke have gone down.

Source: CNA/cl

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