Time to find more effective solution to smoking problem than bans

Anti- and pro-smoking advocates are unlikely to budge from their positions (Aim to wipe out smoking altogether by Dr Patrick Liew Siow Gian, Keep personal choice in mind when making laws on smoking by Mr Francis Cheng, and Make it illegal to smoke in vehicles by Mr Seah Yam Meng; all published on March 14).

Perhaps they should meet halfway by considering other factors in play, such as educating people to make informed choices.

Other ways could be staging healthy living roadshows and campaigns at workplaces and schools, and running public campaigns. These should not demonise tobacco or alcohol but highlight the benefits of not using these products.

Calling for bans on anything undesirable is not necessarily effective.

The prohibition on alcohol in America from 1920 to 1933 resulted in the burgeoning of illegal establishments that sold alcoholic beverages.

In modern times, Bhutan boasts of being the world's first smoke-free country. But the reality is that tobacco has just been driven underground.

People also may substitute one habit for another.

When I was in Bhutan, I saw huge piles of empty whiskey and beer bottles next to houses. Some were piled even higher than the houses themselves.

Anti- and pro-smoking advocates should steer away from emotions and base their arguments on facts.

They should work together to come up with effective and practical solutions, instead of suggesting knee-jerk reactions such as a smoking ban.

Michael Loh Toon Seng (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2017, with the headline 'Time to find more effective solution to smoking problem than bans'. Print Edition | Subscribe