Thursday 28 September 2017

Smoking ban extended to universities, private-hire cars from 1 Oct 2017; New Bill in Parliament to raise minimum smoking age to 21

New restrictions cover private education institutions, and will take effect on Sunday
By Jose Hong, The Straits Times, 27 Sep 2017

Undergraduates and teachers, along with private-hire car passengers, will find it harder to smoke, under new restrictions taking effect from Sunday.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) announced yesterday that smoking will be banned in the outdoor areas of universities, and within the compounds of private education institutions.

It will be limited to designated smoking areas in universities and private education institutions where degrees are offered.

Smoking will also be banned within 5m of the compounds of schools such as pre-schools, madrasahs, junior colleges and polytechnics.

Additionally, smokers will not be able to light up in excursion buses, trishaws and private-hire cars used by firms such as Grab and Uber. This includes ride-sharing services such as GrabShare and UberPool.

The move is an extension of the Smoking (Prohibition in Certain Places) Act, which aims to reduce the exposure of the public to second-hand smoke. After the extension, there will be more than 32,000 places where smoking is banned.

Checks by The Straits Times found that many of the universities here already have no-smoking policies in place.

Professor Lim Seh Chun, associate provost for student affairs at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, said the campus has designated smoking areas.

"Staff and students caught smoking outside the designated areas... could be served with letters of warning and/or counselling," he said.

About 10 students have been caught, he added, but there are no figures for staff.

A spokesman for the National University of Singapore said that the university has had a smoke-free campus since 1998.

Building manager Romi Sofhian Mohd Taib, who goes through about one pack of cigarettes daily, said he supports the ban because he is a responsible smoker who already avoids crowded areas when he smokes.

However, the 38-year-old hopes that the ban extension does not go too far. He was reacting to online comments that called for smoking to be banned even within individual homes.

"For me, that is too much - then where can we go?" he said.

The NEA has been expanding the list of smoke-free places covered under the Act, in consultation with members of the public and stakeholders.

The agency said yesterday that it will "take an advisory approach" in the first three months after the ban takes effect in order to give the public time to adapt, and will verbally warn those caught smoking in the prohibited areas.

However, it may issue fines to those who carry on smoking despite prior warnings.

From Jan 1 next year, the NEA will take enforcement action against all who are caught smoking in the newly prohibited areas.

"No Smoking" signs will be set up in these new places, and bins with ashtrays will either be moved to new locations or be replaced with those that do not have ashtrays.

Last year, about 19,000 tickets were issued to people caught smoking in prohibited areas.

* Parliament: Bill tabled to raise minimum smoking age from 18 to 21
By Linette Lai, The Straits Times, 3 Oct 2017

Singapore has taken its first legal step towards raising the minimum smoking age from 18 to 21, with the introduction of a new Bill in Parliament yesterday.

The Bill to amend the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act will also make it illegal for people to own imitation tobacco products such as e-cigarettes.

Currently, it is against the law to import, distribute, sell or offer to sell such products. With the proposed changes, owners of e-cigarettes can be fined up to $2,000.

The Bill, tabled by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, will be debated at a later date.

In an explanatory statement attached to the Bill, the Health Ministry said that raising the minimum legal age is intended "to reduce, with a view to ultimately eliminating, the opportunities for the young to be tempted and take up smoking before attaining 21 years of age".

In Singapore, the years between 18 and 21 are when nearly half of smokers start to light up on a regular basis. The average age at which people start to smoke has also gone down, from 17 in 2001 to 16 in 2013.

Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC), a former smoker, told The Straits Times the move is a "crucial step forward".

"I started smoking when I was about 18... Research by the World Health Organisation shows people who don't pick up smoking before 21 are unlikely to start," he said.

Medical experts welcomed the draft law, but said it should be complemented by other measures.

These include more prominent public campaigns like deterrent advertisements on buses, and higher taxes like in Australia, where a packet of cigarettes can cost over A$30 (S$32), said Sata CommHealth chief executive K. Thomas Abraham. Stronger enforcement action is also required, he added.

Dr Tan Kok Kuan, resident doctor at Dr Tan & Partners @ Novena, said there is a case to be made for allowing certain types of e-cigarettes with tobacco but no flavourings, as these give smokers the nicotine fix but are less likely to entice young people.

"Being 100 per cent smoke-free is not possible," he said. "It makes sense to allow products which are not healthy, but less harmful than the ones we currently have."

Smoking Prohibition To Be Extended To More Educational Institutions And Public Service Vehicles From 1 October 2017

No comments:

Post a Comment