Erect physical partitions for smoking areas in coffee shops

Since 1970, the National Environment Agency (NEA) has done a commendable job in protecting non-smokers from the harmful effects of second-hand tobacco smoke.

Over the years, the Smoking (Prohibition in Certain Places) Act has been extended to cover many public areas like hawker centres, void decks, bus stops and queues.

However, one glaring exemption to this Act is what is happening in our neighbourhood coffee shops.

It is obvious that areas designated as "smoking" and "non-smoking" at such coffee shops offer scant protection to non-smokers if one is seated next to a table where smoking is allowed.

There is no escaping second-hand tobacco smoke, even if one is seated two or three tables away from the smoking area.

Such areas are, for all intents and purposes, public places.

It baffles me that after so many years, the progressive enactment of the Act has till now not been able to cover coffee shops.

Perhaps the Government can take a leaf out ofNee Soon South estate's book, where grassroots organisations have built designated smoking points near coffee shops and Housing Board blocks - by erecting physical partitions between smoking and non-smoking areas.

This is a win-win option and can be made mandatory through legislation.

Chia Yong Soong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 08, 2018, with the headline 'Erect physical partitions for smoking areas in coffee shops'. Print Edition | Subscribe