It will be tougher for smokers to light up as the Government clamps down on second-hand smoke.
With immediate effect, food establishments islandwide will no longer be able to apply for smoking corners, the National Environment Agency (NEA) announced yesterday.
Those with existing smoking corners will get to keep them so long as they renew their food shop licence.
NEA will also be especially tough on food retail establishments along Orchard Road. Sixteen smoking corners along the premier shopping belt, which are currently part of eateries, will have to cease from June 30 next year.
A smoking ban for Orchard Road will go into effect the next day. Smoking will be allowed only at designated outdoor areas no bigger than 10 sq m each. Five have been set up by NEA, and building owners can set up their own as long as they meet NEA guidelines.
The change could hit coffee shops hard as they tend to change hands often and new operators have to apply for a new food shop licence each time, said Mr Hong Poh Hin, chairman of the Foochow Coffee Restaurant and Bar Merchants Association, which represents 400 coffee shops.
"The rental contract for a coffee shop space is for about two to three years. Quite often, the operators choose to give it up when the contract expires, perhaps because they are retiring or the coffee shop isn't making money," Mr Hong said, adding that business will also be affected.
A spokesman for Singapore River One, which manages Boat Quay, Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay, said NEA's move to create a smoke- free environment is "laudable", but added that customers of the precinct's many nightlife venues will be inconvenienced.
"However, I believe that businesses will adapt to these changes and customers will adjust their smoking habits according to the regulations," the spokesman said.
Mr Derek Ho, NEA's director-general of public health, explained why the agency is getting tougher on smoking at Orchard Road.
"(Orchard Road) is an area of high human traffic so, naturally, we want to ensure that people who are using this place are protected from second-hand smoke," he said.
"This progressive roll-out of the ban, as well as designating smoking areas, is to allow smokers to have some space to continue to smoke, but at the same time also separate and protect the non-smoking public from second-hand smoke."
The smoke-free zone extends from Tanglin Road to Dhoby Ghaut MRT station, and up to Goodwood Park Hotel in Scotts Road.
Landed residential premises and open areas within the compounds of non-landed residential premises will not be subject to the ban, except for existing prohibited places such as exercise areas and playgrounds.
During the first three months of the roll-out of the Orchard Road smoke-free zone, those caught smoking in public areas there will receive verbal warnings.
Enforcement action will be taken against all offenders from October next year.
Yesterday's announcement is the latest in a series of measures by the authorities to crack down on smoking. In March, the Ministry of Health said it plans to raise the minimum legal smoking age from 18 to 21 in an effort to cut down on youth smokers. From Aug 1, retailers such as convenience shops can no longer display tobacco products.
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