Forum: Treat second-hand smoke as a public health threat controlled with regulations

Heart failure is highly prevalent in Singapore, with 4.5 per cent of the population living with it. While smoking is a major risk factor for heart failure, second-hand smoke seldom comes to mind.

This oversight can prove costly as it has been demonstrated that second-hand smoke worsens existing heart failure and also makes development of heart failure more likely.

A US study presented last year showed that non-smokers with recent exposure to second-hand smoke had a 35 per cent higher chance of developing heart failure compared with those who had not been around tobacco.

In dense, urban Singapore, for the many vulnerable home-bound seniors with heart failure or who are at risk of heart failure, one regular source of second-hand smoke could be their neighbours.

Regular exposure to residential second-hand smoke would put their health at risk of deterioration.

In line with the Healthier SG initiative, environmental factors contributing to poor health must be addressed.

In this regard, more should be done at the policy level to limit the harms posed by residential second-hand smoke drift.

Researchers led by Dr Yvette van der Eijk, assistant professor at the National University of Singapore Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, have called for specific regulations to limit second-hand smoke in multi-unit housing in a recently published article in the Tobacco Control journal.

They concluded that treating second-hand smoke as a neighbourly nuisance where mediation is the main mechanism for resolution is not satisfactory. Residential second-hand smoke should be seen as a public health threat to be controlled with regulations.

Lim Teck Koon

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