Wanted: Ideas from companies to tackle second-hand smoke in residential areas

The problem of secondhand smoke drifting from neighbouring homes has been exacerbated by the pandemic, as more people spend time at home.
The problem of secondhand smoke drifting from neighbouring homes has been exacerbated by the pandemic, as more people spend time at home.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Start-ups and enterprises with innovative solutions to tackle the issue of second-hand smoke in residential areas could be awarded funding, mentoring and test-bedding opportunities.

On Friday (Sept 10), Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and National Development Sim Ann called for ideas from companies which can help address the longstanding problem of second-hand smoke drifting from neighbouring homes. This is an issue that has been exacerbated by the pandemic, as more people spend time at home.

The call for ideas includes a specific appeal for smoke-sensor solutions that can aid residents in resolving second-hand smoke disputes.

Currently, residents who are affected by unwelcome second-hand smoke can seek to resolve the dispute via legal means, if they can collect evidence of the smoke.

"The legalistic way is, however, not always the most ideal. We would also like to work with the business community and industry to inject greater creativity and innovation into resolving this complex issue," said Ms Sim, who oversees the Municipal Services Office (MSO).

She was speaking at a closed-door virtual session on Friday with close to 40 companies that expressed interest in the solutions required.

Aggrieved residents who are not successful in engaging their neighbours through dialogue or mediation can file a Community Disputes Resolution Tribunal claim against the smoker.

The Ministry of Law said in February that 38 claims related to excessive smoke were filed with the tribunal from 2018 to 2020.

However, Ms Sim noted that residents face a number of challenges when filing a claim, such as detecting the origin of the second-hand smoke, collecting evidence of the smoker in the act and proving that the smoke has affected them.

The MSO is seeking smoke-sensor solutions that can resolve these.

Other proposals to reduce second-hand smoke at its source or to prevent it from entering neighbouring units are also being sought.

Enterprises whose proposals are awarded could receive support for the development of their solutions through funding, technical mentoring, and test-bed facilities at HDB's Centre of Building Research in Woodlands and in HDB estates, supported by HDB's Cool Ideas Enterprise programme.

A six-month pilot of two enhanced designated smoking points, which offer cooled spaces for smokers, at public housing estates in Clementi has been ongoing since June.

Said Ms Sim: "Smoking in homes is an emotive issue for both non-smokers and smokers alike, and the efforts of all stakeholders are needed to resolve it.

"I always believe that when we find ourselves wondering what to do, it is not because no solution exists but simply because we have not found it yet."