NEWS

Parliament Q&A

WRITTEN REPLY BY DR AMY KHOR, SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER RESOURCES, TO PARLIAMENTARY QUESTION ON SMOKING PROHIBITION, 6 AUGUST 2018

Er Dr Lee Bee Wah: To ask the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources (a) what is the standard protocol for NEA to handle feedback about smokers smoking in prohibited areas; and (b) where there is no pictorial evidence and NEA is unable to catch the culprit red-handed, what other measures are taken to ensure that culprits will be apprehended especially those who have had multiple reports made against them in residential areas.

Mr Liang Eng Hwa: To ask the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources (a) what is the progress of efforts to keep our neighbourhood spaces smoke-free; (b) whether banning smoking in more designated areas have resulted in improving a smoke-free environment; (c) whether operators and premise managers are doing their part to stop patrons and visitors from smoking in prohibited areas; and (d) whether there are adequate enforcement resources and penalties to stop smokers who disregard the prohibitions imposed by NEA.

Reply:

The Government has over the years progressively extended the smoking prohibition to more public places, to protect more people from the harmful effects of passive tobacco smoke. Such places include the common areas of housing estates such as void decks, fitness corners, and playgrounds, as well as sheltered pedestrian walkways and bus stops. In 2016, the prohibition was further extended to neighbourhood and reservoir parks. Today, smoking is disallowed in more than 32,000 places and progress has been made towards our vision of a smoke-free and conducive living environment.

2 Generally, smokers appreciate the reasons behind these restrictions and most comply willingly. However, there is a minority who do not, and this is where the concerted efforts of various stakeholders can make a difference. When someone we know – be it a family member or a friend – lights up where he or she should not, we ought to remind them to spare a thought for those around. Such social cues are important for signalling and entrenching the positive social norms that smokers should abide by.

3 Operators and managers of smoking-prohibited premises have a statutory responsibility to stop patrons from smoking and request them to leave if they refuse. Most managers are aware of the important role they play in safeguarding the health of their non-smoking patrons. Managers who fail to discharge their duties will be liable for a maximum fine of $2,000 upon conviction.

4 Regarding the Member’s question about the National Environment Agency’s (NEA) protocol in responding to feedback on unlawful smoking, NEA upon receiving such feedback, will engage the manager of the relevant smoking-prohibited premises to ensure that signs are prominently displayed to remind smokers of the prohibition, and to remove any misleading cues such as litter bins fitted with ashtrays.

5 If the complaints persist, NEA will undertake further investigations by contacting the complainant and other witnesses for additional information. NEA may also obtain video footage from nearby CCTVs if available. If the alleged offender is identified, NEA will interview the person to ascertain culpability. A summons may then be issued if there is evidence that an offence had been committed. Errant smokers can face fines of up to $1,000 upon conviction. 

6 All said, it is not possible for the NEA to monitor every one of the 32,000 smoking-prohibited places at all times. Residents who come across people smoking in prohibited areas can submit feedback, including details of the incident, to NEA through the myENV mobile application, and NEA’s hotline and website. Such information can provide useful leads for us to target areas where breaches of the smoking prohibition occur repeatedly.

7 While enforcement of the smoking prohibition will continue, it is not the panacea to curbing inconsiderate smoking. Our hope is for smokers to be mindful of the potential harm they may cause others, and not light up in places where smoking is prohibited. The families and friends of smokers, as well as the general public can also help reinforce positive social norms through reminders. Ultimately, we would like to help smokers kick the habit for the benefit of their own health, their loved ones, and the community.

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