Sunday, 2 July 2017

Public areas in Orchard Road to be smoke-free from 1 July 2018

F&B outlets can no longer apply for new smoking corners; public areas in Orchard Road to go smoke-free from July 2018
By Felicia Choo and Melissa Lin, The Straits Times, 1 Jul 2017

It will be tougher for smokers to light up as the Government clamps down on second-hand smoke.

With immediate effect, food establishments islandwide will no longer be able to apply for smoking corners, the National Environment Agency (NEA) announced yesterday.

Those with existing smoking corners will get to keep them so long as they renew their food shop licence.

NEA will also be especially tough on food retail establishments along Orchard Road. Sixteen smoking corners along the premier shopping belt, which are currently part of eateries, will have to cease from June 30 next year.

A smoking ban for Orchard Road will go into effect the next day. Smoking will be allowed only at designated outdoor areas no bigger than 10 sq m each. Five have been set up by NEA, and building owners can set up their own as long as they meet NEA guidelines.

The change could hit coffee shops hard as they tend to change hands often and new operators have to apply for a new food shop licence each time, said Mr Hong Poh Hin, chairman of the Foochow Coffee Restaurant and Bar Merchants Association, which represents 400 coffee shops.

"The rental contract for a coffee shop space is for about two to three years. Quite often, the operators choose to give it up when the contract expires, perhaps because they are retiring or the coffee shop isn't making money," Mr Hong said, adding that business will also be affected.

A spokesman for Singapore River One, which manages Boat Quay, Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay, said NEA's move to create a smoke- free environment is "laudable", but added that customers of the precinct's many nightlife venues will be inconvenienced.

"However, I believe that businesses will adapt to these changes and customers will adjust their smoking habits according to the regulations," the spokesman said.

Mr Derek Ho, NEA's director-general of public health, explained why the agency is getting tougher on smoking at Orchard Road.

"(Orchard Road) is an area of high human traffic so, naturally, we want to ensure that people who are using this place are protected from second-hand smoke," he said.

"This progressive roll-out of the ban, as well as designating smoking areas, is to allow smokers to have some space to continue to smoke, but at the same time also separate and protect the non-smoking public from second-hand smoke."

The smoke-free zone extends from Tanglin Road to Dhoby Ghaut MRT station, and up to Goodwood Park Hotel in Scotts Road.

Landed residential premises and open areas within the compounds of non-landed residential premises will not be subject to the ban, except for existing prohibited places such as exercise areas and playgrounds.

During the first three months of the roll-out of the Orchard Road smoke-free zone, those caught smoking in public areas there will receive verbal warnings.

Enforcement action will be taken against all offenders from October next year.

Yesterday's announcement is the latest in a series of measures by the authorities to crack down on smoking. In March, the Ministry of Health said it plans to raise the minimum legal smoking age from 18 to 21 in an effort to cut down on youth smokers. From Aug 1, retailers such as convenience shops can no longer display tobacco products.

Tougher smoking curbs: Food operators fret; smokers say they'll adjust to new rules
By Felicia Choo, The Straits Times, 1 Jul 2017

While most welcomed the move to ban smoking at public places in the Orchard Road area, some food retail operators there anticipate business may take a hit.

Mr Peter Han, business development manager at Black Angus Steakhouse, said the restaurant can already predict the outcome when the new rules kick in for food establishments in the Orchard Road area on June 30 next year.

When applying for a smoking corner recently, the restaurant made a mistake in the application and consequently did not receive an approval. Mr Han said business at the restaurant at Orchard Parade Hotel in Tanglin Road was slightly affected as a result, about a month ago.

He said: "It does turn away customers, especially foreigners, who are usually the ones who smoke."

"They find it inconvenient to walk out (of the restaurant) to smoke, especially when it rains; it spoils the ambience," he added.

The Straits Times spoke to several people spotted smoking along Orchard Road, and they said they would adjust to the new rules.

"I am used to (smoking) being banned everywhere I go... I will find somewhere else (to smoke) where it is permitted," said Mr Troy Liu, 34, who owns a travel and technology start-up.

Ms Niki Chua, 32, said the ban will mean the shopping belt will look cleaner. "Some people smoke outside and throw (their cigarette butts) on the plants," she added.

But the sales assistant said it will also be troublesome for smokers. They will have to hunt down the designated smoking areas.

The list of places where smoking is prohibited has been growing over the years, with reservoirs and more than 400 parks added in June last year. This is in addition to void decks, shopping malls, hospitals and any area within a 5m radius of a bus stop.

Health experts said the new measures signalled a progression to Singapore becoming smoke-free.

"Some people will find it a strong measure, but this shows the commitment of the Government for the nation to adopt a smoke-free lifestyle," said Dr K. Thomas Abraham, Sata CommHealth chief executive and an anti-smoking advocate.

Moves against smoking timely
By Felicia Choo, The Straits Times, 3 Jul 2017

Singapore's bid to become a smoke-free nation is gaining ground after the National Environment Agency announced last week that it will no longer allow new smoking corners to be set up at food establishments islandwide, with immediate effect.

Only food establishments with existing smoking corners will get to keep them so long as they renew their food shop licence. That, combined with the phasing out of 16 smoking corners along the Orchard Road shopping belt from June 30 next year, will greatly benefit non-smokers, who will be protected from second-hand smoke.

Besides bringing about health benefits, the new rules signal an effort to tackle the mindset of smokers and would-be smokers.

Physically divorcing smoking from the everyday necessity of eating and the leisure activity of shopping in many public spaces sends the message that smoking should not be an openly accepted activity. It may go some way towards disavowing the notion that smoking is "cool" and an attractive way to socialise.

This is especially important as the habit starts young. The average age of new smokers in Singapore is 16, with 18 to 21 being the years when nearly half of smokers make it a regular habit.

Furthermore, implementing these rules in Singapore's premier shopping belt will boost the country's image globally and make it more attractive to tourists.

While the proportion of smokers aged 18 to 69 here has remained relatively consistent at around 13 per cent since 2013, the latest measures are a timely effort to bring that number down.

They follow recent announcements to discourage smoking. In March, the Ministry of Health said it plans to raise the minimum legal smoking age from 18 to 21. Next month, retailers such as convenience shops can no longer display tobacco products.

Taken together, these measures underline that smoking is an unacceptable habit for people of any age, and also an inconsiderate practice towards those who do not light up.

No comments:

Post a Comment