Singapore — The government should make it clear that smoking at windows and balconies at home is illegal, said Member of Parliament Louis Ng (PAP-Nee Soon) on Monday (Sept 13) in another pitch to tackle this issue.
During his adjournment motion, Mr Ng wished that the problem had been solved, but this is not the case as second-hand smoke at homes has slightly worsened.
He highlighted that since the last motion, many Singaporeans have spoken up on various platforms, reporting they feel “tortured and trapped” by their neighbour’s second-hand smoke.
Mr Ng emphasised the power of deterrence, which is the most powerful force in Singapore, to tackle this problem.
He reminded everyone how deadly second-hand smoke is, using statistics.
“Let me clear, death from motor accidents, the coronavirus and workplace injuries are all serious, and all need our attention,” he said.
“My point is that second-hand smoke needs our urgent attention too.”
Mr Ng added that unlike other causes of death, there are no preventive measures like vaccines that could be taken against second-hand smoke at homes.
“You can install an air purifier, but as the Ministry of Health has said, it doesn’t work,” said Mr Ng.
He shared that residents have reached out to him regarding their attempts to escape their situation, such as moving houses or begging their neighbour to be more considerate while carrying their baby.
“So let’s focus on how this affects our children,” said Mr Ng.
“In a recent study published just a few months ago, researchers concluded that children exposed to second-hand smoke from pregnancy to childhood will more likely suffer from ADHD symptoms.”
“Second-hand smoke causes severe respiratory infections, trigger more frequent and more severe asthma attacks, cough, wheezing, breathlessness, ear infection and a whole slew of other illnesses amongst young children.”
He added that these medical scenarios are not hypothetical as parents have highlighted in the letters that “something was killing their children, but they were helpless to do anything about it.”
“We’ve always taken pride in being a safe nation. But for many homes, it’s no longer a safe place. It is a place where their neighbours cause them to suffer” from various medical conditions, he noted.
Mr Ng reiterated that a law already exists prohibiting this practice.
He cited Section 43 of the Environmental Public Health Act (EPHA), which empowers the National Environment Agency (NEA) to take necessary steps to “remove nuisances of a public nature.”
Such nuisances include “the issue of any fumes, vapours, gases, heat, radiation or smells in any premises which is a nuisance or injurious or dangerous to health.”
“That sure sounds like second-hand smoke,” said Mr Ng.
He asked why the government was not using this law to take a clear stance that smoking on windows and balconies is illegal.
However, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Amy Khor, in her response to Mr Ng’s speech, highlighted that the mentioned sections could not be used to prohibit smoking at windows and balconies.
“This part of the EPHA was enacted in the context of 1960s Singapore to provide for quick mitigating action to arrest public nuisances from specific industrial activities. It is not the purpose of the EPHA to deal with smoking prohibition,” said Dr Khor.
She added that EPHA addresses nuisances that affect the public at large and not private nuisances faced by residents on their property.
“To achieve deterrence, not only do we need the appropriate law, we also need effective enforcement. Unfortunately, NEA’s assessment is that this is not achievable with current enforcement modalities and technology,” said Dr Khor.
She also shared instances where attempts at deterrence were enacted with a temporary result as the same smoking behaviours resumed after a while. /TISG
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