[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Friday, November 24, 2006

[The smoking ban]
When I read the letter "Smoking ban seems to be hazy in some places" from Elena Lau in today's edition of Today, I laughed. It was a loud laugh.

The funny part that tickled me was the way she poked fun at the PSI index. Or was it the work of creative editors at Today?

Here's what she wrote:

A few months ago, the government implemented Non-Smoking Zones in all coffeehouses and hawker centres.

During that time, plainclothes officers went around the island’s eateries to keep tabs on people violating this new law. Fines were imposed on those who were found guilty.

Since then, fewer offences have been reported in the newspapers. Or has the law been simply forgotten?

Consider this instance.

I was having breakfast at a coffeeshop in the east recently. Being heavily pregnant, my husband suggested that we find a table away from patrons who had packets of cigarettes on their tables.

I told him confidently that they would not smoke here as there was a no-smoking signboard that could be seen by all patrons. I was wrong.

Shortly after we sat down, the woman at the next table took out a cigarette and lighted up. Her partner followed suit. Moments later, patrons at another table next to us also took out their cigarettes and joined in.

It was as if we were back to the days of the hazy season when the PSI index soared to 80.

I could see that the coffeeshop’s assistant was grappling with the dilemma of whether to inform the smokers about the law and risk having unhappy patrons, or simply to ignore them.

In the end, nothing was done. My question is, has the smoking ban gone up in smoke?

Are you laughing already? Not yet?

Perhaps the people in the coffee shop in the east were having a cigarette-lighting competition. Fastest who lights up wins - but win to a fine?

Does not sound fine to me.

I always wanted to write on this topic but was afraid to offend the smoking population in Singapore. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against them. In fact, I have many very close friends that are smokers.

The thing about the ban is that there is no proper enforcement or control. Yes although there is a hotline to report errant smokers, how effective is that hotline? By the time the officers come, all that is left are cigarette ashes.

Unless we have a STOMP citizen journalist around who captures the smoky incident on tape. Or maybe these citizen journalists can be rewarded when they turn in errant smokers (remember our anti-piracy campaign) - earn cash when we nab an errant smoker based on your tip-off.

Once, during my political science class, a group suggested having a smoke-only zone. It was wacky idea but it may work. This smoke-only zone will be a well ventilated room for smokers to smoke. Smokers can smoke till the PSI ratings in the room hit 1000.

To protect the environment, there will be a proper filtration device to expel the smoke. Non-smokers will not be present in that area (or building), and cigarette smoke will not whiff out of and take non-smokers by surprise. And everyone will be happy. No second-hand smoke. Those who like to smoke can have a smoky time.

The only thing is that 'smoke gets in your eyes'. The eyes of the smokers that is. (I remember one of mrbrown's podcast having that corny song). Oh, it was about PSI ratings.

So while there is a youtube clip (MTV is passe, but the staff at MTV have cool namecards) that has the tune "Money, money, money" with a subtle Singaporean flavour of PM's 'mee siam mai hum', maybe it is time for a 'Smoke gets in your eyes' clip.

But then the subtle humming of 'mee siam mai hum' in the background will not blend well with 'Smoke gets in your eyes'.

We'll leave it to them then.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

There're two solutions to this smoking problem. The first is to totally ban ALL sales of cigarettes here in Singapore, just like the ban on chewing gum. The second is to impose a NO SMOKING rule THROUGHOUT Singapore. Make it an offence to smoke, or even just to light up here in Singapore. For the sake of the majority of our non-smoking population, would our government kindly take into consideration these two "proposals"?

Friday, November 24, 2006 8:01:00 pm

Blogger Ephraim Loy 黎传志 said...

My view is that the although the Government knows smoking is bad, they will not totally ban it. Imagine the high losses of income they will lose from the high taxes on tobacco. I used to think that there should be a rule to ban smoking on Orchard Road or at least outside all shopping malls as there was a time I felt that it was getting too bad for health. But imagine the large number of tourists that would be turned off if Singapore were to ban smoking totally. So the solution to this problem is simple - striking a balance between the different viewpoints. We let those who want to smoke get their cigarettes. If they can afford it so be it, if they can't too bad. Since smoking is harmful, the Government tries to drive that message across by educating the public that it is really harmful with those gross pictures. But you have the freedom to choose if you want to smoke and shorten your lifespan or not. However, they need to consider the other camp that does not smoke. Hence certain laws apply. Laws are only good when enforced properly. And that was what I was addressing in my post. These are purely my views. Comments?

Friday, November 24, 2006 10:36:00 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I knew that my proposals would be too much to ask of the government, but I just wanted to give it a shot anyway. I have one last proposal though.

Instead of focusing on smokers only, why not focus on the NON-smokers?

Can the government help to bring the message across to all smokers, that second-hand smoke is worse for health for the non-smokers than for the smokers themselves? If the smokers have any heart, or any love for their families, loved ones, and friends around them, maybe focusing on the health of their loved ones might do the trick? As in, "For the sake of the people around me, I will stop smoking so that they can have a healthy and smoke-free environment to live in." Make smokers be aware that THEY are responsible for the health of the non-smokers around them. Taking this indirect approach might do the trick.

Saturday, November 25, 2006 3:13:00 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Unless we have a STOMP citizen journalist around who captures the smoky incident on tape. Or maybe these citizen journalists can be rewarded when they turn in errant smokers (remember our anti-piracy campaign) - earn cash when we nab an errant smoker based on your tip-off."

- This is not something we would want to encourage. It crosses the lines of decency and creates the climate for one to snitch on their fellow man for money. Anyone here remember the Stasi?

Sunday, November 26, 2006 12:18:00 am


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