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Why It Matters

Moves against smoking timely

Singapore's bid to become a smoke-free nation is gaining ground after the National Environment Agency announced last week that it will no longer allow new smoking corners to be set up at food establishments islandwide, with immediate effect.

Only food establishments with existing smoking corners will get to keep them so long as they renew their food shop licence. That, combined with the phasing out of 16 smoking corners along the Orchard Road shopping belt from June 30 next year, will greatly benefit non-smokers, who will be protected from second-hand smoke.

Besides bringing about health benefits, the new rules signal an effort to tackle the mindset of smokers and would-be smokers.

Physically divorcing smoking from the everyday necessity of eating and the leisure activity of shopping in many public spaces sends the message that smoking should not be an openly accepted activity. It may go some way towards disavowing the notion that smoking is "cool" and an attractive way to socialise.

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This is especially important as the habit starts young. The average age of new smokers in Singapore is 16, with 18 to 21 being the years when nearly half of smokers make it a regular habit.

Furthermore, implementing these rules in Singapore's premier shopping belt will boost the country's image globally and make it more attractive to tourists.

 
 
 

While the proportion of smokers aged 18 to 69 here has remained relatively consistent at around 13 per cent since 2013, the latest measures are a timely effort to bring that number down.

They follow recent announcements to discourage smoking. In March, the Ministry of Health said it plans to raise the minimum legal smoking age from 18 to 21. Next month, retailers such as convenience shops can no longer display tobacco products.

Taken together, these measures underline that smoking is an unacceptable habit for people of any age, and also an inconsiderate practice towards those who do not light up.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 03, 2017, with the headline 'Moves against smoking timely'. Print Edition | Subscribe