Forum: Number of complaints a poor gauge of non-smokers affected at home

I read with disappointment Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Amy Khor's response to a Government Parliamentary Committee's call for a ban on residents smoking at the windows or balconies of their homes (GPC calls for ban on smoking at windows or balconies at home, Oct 6).

She said that of the 11,400 complaints linked to smoking in the first four months of this year, 58 per cent were in residential estates, and of these, only 5 per cent involved smoking in homes. This may not be an accurate picture of the situation.

People are not reporting smoking in homes simply because it is not against the law, and the relevant authorities have repeatedly told them so.

Therefore, most are of the view that it is pointless to complain, although they remain distraught. Many are also afraid of souring relationships with their neighbours who smoke.

If the Government wants to know how severe the problem of second-hand smoke in homes is, household surveys can be conducted by the Housing Board and Management Corporation Strata Title of condominiums.

Dr Khor also said "the best way to protect against second-hand smoke is for family members and neighbours to help smokers cut down and quit smoking".

The reality is that many helpless non-smokers have already tried to do so, with the offending smokers not budging and retorting that it is their right to smoke in their own homes.

Data from international studies further shows that a mere 5 per cent of smokers succeed in quitting without assistance.

At the very least, smokers should be obligated to close their doors and windows when they smoke at home, as proposed by MP Derrick Goh. We cannot predict when smokers will light up, and by the time we smell it, toxic smoke has already drifted into our homes.

I hope policymakers will take a serious look at the severity of this public health issue and enact concrete measures now to protect non-smokers from neighbours' smoke drift.

Liu I-Chun

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