Singaporeans have been fired up over smoking this past week. The fumes were fanned when some MPs, citing residents' concerns, sought stronger rules against smokers in residential flats whose second-hand smoke affects neighbours. The government response has been measured and sensible: intrusive regulatory approaches to issues between neighbours can be more harmful to community harmony. Public space for smokers has shrunk over time, increasingly limited by rules, regulations and changing social norms. Orchard Road is to be smoke-free by the year-end. Smoking has been snuffed out in government and most other buildings, hospitals, schools and entertainment outlets. Smoking areas are clearly marked.
Smokers bemoan these expanding limits but must recognise there is declining social acceptance globally, and that non-smokers are now more vocal about their right to clean air. Similarly, while non-smokers may not sympathise, they must recognise that smoking is not just a habit, but often an addiction. And while it is easy to enforce restrictions in public spaces, it may be a step too far to do so in the privacy of homes. The rate of smoking fell to 12 per cent last year. The Government aims for below 10 per cent by 2020. Given the increasing health consciousness and public education on the financial and physical tolls of smoking, it is not unreasonable to expect a further decline.