The coming Orchard Road curbs on smoking will appeal to shoppers and leisure-seekers who have long yearned for a smoke-free sanctuary downtown. The health-conscious, young families and seniors will no longer have to be on the alert to dodge puffers. Such an environment will also help to improve the visitor experience of the area. Foreigners should be able to enjoy the best that Singapore can offer them by way of air quality and environmental ambience.
Of course, it is not only visitors but locals as well who will benefit from reduced exposure to second-hand smoke. The latter would include non-smoking staff of business establishments in the area. Sixteen smoking corners along the premier shopping belt, which are part of eateries now, will have to close from June 30 next year. A smoking ban for Orchard Road will go into effect the following day, with smoking being allowed only at designated outdoor areas of limited size.
This provision shows that the authorities have taken the needs of smokers into account, but the larger need is to protect the rights of non-smokers from the habitual practice of the addicted. Indeed, the Orchard Road initiative is being accompanied by a ruling that food establishments islandwide will no longer be able to apply for smoking corners. These new restrictions would not succeed in making smokers quit, but these would signal to them, yet again, that they are indulging in a habit that infringes on the freedom of others to breathe in clean air.
Clearly, the balance must tilt in favour of the latter, whose habits do not affect the well-being of citizens. Smoking, by contrast, potentially impairs the health of non-smokers, apart from endangering the health and even lives of smokers. Young Singaporeans must shun the practice. The logic that demands avoidance of drugs and alcoholism is applicable to cigarettes, too.