Smoking ban in parks catches some by surprise

To give smokers time to adjust to the new rules, those caught lighting up in reservoirs and parks in the first three months will be let off with a warning.
To give smokers time to adjust to the new rules, those caught lighting up in reservoirs and parks in the first three months will be let off with a warning.PHOTO: ST FILE

A ban on smoking in parks at public housing estates that came into force on Wednesday was still news to some smokers yesterday.

Three of the four people seen smoking at the Toa Payoh Sensory Park yesterday said they did not know about the new law.

A 58-year-old worker in a fruit stall said he had lost track of where he could smoke. "It's very confusing, we can't smoke here and we can't smoke there," he said in Mandarin. "I can't say the law is good or bad, but people should be given a place to smoke."

His refrain was echoed by others, that they had fewer places to smoke now under the new ban, which also covered reservoirs and parks in private housing estates.

But many smokers also said they did not smoke in parks anyway.

"We go to the park to exercise, not smoke," said Mr Ng Kim Chuan, a 46-year-old store supervisor.

The four were the only smokers among at least 80 people seen at the Toa Payoh park over a few hours in the afternoon and at the Bishan Active Park and Bishan North Neighbourhood Park at dusk.

From Wednesday, reservoirs and more than 400 parks, including those in private and public housing estates, were added to the list of smoke-free areas. The move comes three years after the smoking ban was extended to common areas such as void decks, sheltered walkways and linkways, and any area within a 5m radius of a bus stop.

Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor told Parliament in April that the Government's long-term goal is to snuff out smoking in all public areas, to protect non-smokers from second-hand smoke.

To give smokers time to adjust to the new rules, those caught lighting up in reservoirs and parks in the first three months will be let off with a warning. But the National Environment Agency (NEA) said smokers who repeatedly flout the law can be fined. Last year, about 17,000 fines were handed out.

Retiree Tan Seng Kiat, 61, told The Straits Times he was aware of the ban and supports it, but may still smoke in the park at secluded spots. He suggested smokers be given a designated point to smoke.

Non-smokers welcomed the move. Ms Jenny Xie, 30, who takes her one-year-old son to a park near Toa Payoh Lorong 2 every day, said it would create a healthier environment for everyone.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 04, 2016, with the headline 'Smoking ban in parks catches some by surprise'. Print Edition | Subscribe