Updated: May 5
It has been more than 1.5 years since Singapore MPs (Members of Parliament), citing dangers of secondhand smoke, want to curb smoking in homes, but nothing seems to have improved in regards to smoking in residential housing estates.
MPs seems more concerned with invading the private spaces of smokers in their own premises, but what about the toxic and pungent fumes that smokers exhaled into the private spaces of non-smoking homeowners?
Non-smokers, like me, are living in second-hand-smoke environment in our own houses. We have to keep our windows closed most of the time to keep the harmful smoke from entering our homes when our neighbours light up their cigarettes outside their own windows — we don't know when that will be until the toxic smoke filled the whole house, by then, closing the windows will be too late and, yet, opening them is the only option to ventilate the house!
And, if the neighbours are chain-smokers, the situation gets worst, especially on weekends when they would puff on those sticks more frequently than ever. And we have to keep our windows shut even though we are inside the house.
What if there are kids in the house and they are breathing in the toxic air all the time?
Ever since I moved into my new HDB house two years ago, I have been living in a second-hand-smoke environment ever since. The owner of the housing unit below mine is a chain-smoker and like to smoke at the kitchen windows, the couple living above my unit like to smoke at the living room windows. My house is literally "sandwiched" by smokers.
Apart from the foul stench of cigarette smokes that drift into my house, there are also cigarette butts being thrown out from the higher floors that landed on my air-con ledge. I have also found cigarette ashes — about 2 cm long — on my fabric sofa near an opened windows. In fear of fire hazards, I have to make sure all my windows are closed when I sleep or when have to leave the house for more than five minutes. Home is supposed to be heaven, but it has turned out to be hell under these circumstances.
What if I developed lung cancer from inhaling too much of the second-hand smoke? Who is going to pay for my medical treatments? Myself, who don't smoke? The government will bear all the costs for not doing anything? Or should it be the perpetrators, the smoking neighbours, who indirectly inflicted the illness? It is really not fair for non-smokers!
I wrote a complaint email to NEA on all the above and received the "nothing we can do, please talk to your neighbours amicably or go to your town council" reply. I had expected that kind of reply even before I sent — because there is no laws to protect homeowners from smokers, what can civil servant do?
If smokers do not care about their own healths, will they be considerate to others' healths, including those of their own family members? They know the harmful effect of smoking and still pick it up, they just don't care. I had seen a father of two toddlers puffing cigarette smoke right into their faces outside a shopping mall — a father who cares for his own kids will never do that anytime, anywhere.
My hope was raised when I read the news article about MPs wanting to curb smoking in homes, yet it had been more than 18 months since then. Nothing fruitful was heard of thereafter...
Despite all the efforts that the Singapore government had implemented to become a smoke-free nation for our young generations, there are still too many smokers in Singapore. Has there been a lack of enforcement on the non-smoking rules? Or the measures are ineffective against inconsiderate smokers?
If putting up a ban against smoking in homes is too difficult a step to take, the government can consider taking smaller steps to alleviate the situation.
1. Ban smokers from puffing smoke out of doors and windows of housing estates
Why do smokers have to lean out of their house's windows to smoke?
Nobody will like cigarette smokes to fill their houses, nor will anyone wants cigarette ashes on their sofas and floors, so smokers choose to puff it outside their windows for their own conveniences. And let the ashes and toxic fumes get carried into the neighbours' houses. Sometimes, they also claimed to "accidentally" drop cigarette butts out of the windows.
The space outside the doors and windows of a house is not "private space". Even if a smoker is standing on his/her own premise, the deliberate action of blowing smoke out of their houses should be stopped. This will help to reduce the amount of harmful smoke that goes into others' houses. Smokers should smoke in their own houses behind their own CLOSED windows. Puffing out of the windows should be made illegal and fined heavily.
2. Redefine the meaning of "open space"
Open-air spaces should NOT be considered as "open space" if another housing unit or innocent people is within 10 metres.
3. Reduce the number of cigarettes in Singapore
What is the point of trying to make Singapore smoke-free when cigarettes are still readily available anywhere?
Start by halving the number of cigarette brands, especially those that have strong smells and contain high toxicity levels when burnt. In addition, reduce the quantity of cigarette imports aggressively — halved the quantity on the shelves every one year.
4. Increase tax on tobacco imports
The price of a pack of cigarettes is too dirt-cheap based on Singapore's living standards, even teenagers can afford them. God knows how they can get hold of cigarettes despite the law to stop sales of cigarettes to those aged 18 and below. Undeniably, smokers are too readily to offer cigarettes and influence others to smoke with them. This is something that should worry most parents who have teenage child, especially who they mix with.
Increasing the price of cigarettes drastically is one way to further force smokers to quit smoking, especially those in the lower-income groups. It has always been a wonder how some poor families can complaint about having "no money", asked for subsidies from the government, and yet can afford to buy cigarettes and puff away packs after packs.
Each pack of cigarettes should be priced at least S$100!
Apart from paying for duty tax and carbon tax, part of the tax collected can be used to setup a health-care fund to subsidise non-smokers in the event they develop lung cancer from prolong exposures to second-hand smokes.
I woke up this morning, walked into my kitchen and was assaulted by the foul stench of the toxic smoke. The night before, I had left a window opened so my washed laundry that were hanging in the kitchen could dry. The clothes stank of burnt tobacco. It doesn't matter whether I hang them in the kitchen or out on the laundry bars, the result will still be the same — I have to wash them again.
I couldn't suppress my anger and started pouring my pent-up frustrations into this post. How many times have I been through this? How long more do I have to tolerate? For smokers reading this post, do you know the pains that you have been inducing on your neighbours whenever you smoke outside the windows?