“Owners of public buildings such as shopping malls and offices are being urged to create designated smoking areas by the National Environment Agency (NEA)” (Create Smoking Zones In Public Buildings, Miss Priscilla Kham, Miss Sue-Ann Tan, and Mr. Ng Jing Xian).
Logically, the proposal of smoking zones makes perfect sense (Create Smoking Zones In Public Buildings by Miss Pricilla Kham, Miss Sue-Ann Tan, and Mr. Ng Jing Xian, January 18, 2013): the National Environment Agency (NEA) appears inclined to extend the smoking ban to a larger number of areas, and smokers are likely to be confused and frustrated with the increasing scope of restrictions. Smoking zones – like those already present in public buildings, army camps, and military training institutes – clearly demarcates where smoking is permissible. Such unambiguity would yield benefits for smokers and non-smokers alike.
Despite the health and environmental ramifications, smoking remains a lifestyle choice, and the prerogative to do so should remain with the individual. When NEA tweaks its policy – from one of pedantic bans and restrictions to one of responsible management and tolerance – it sends out a different, and more nuanced message to smokers.
Such an endeavour could be construed as making things “easier” or more “convenient” for smokers; nevertheless, in the bigger picture, smokers would be more cognisant of these designated smoking areas, will be more likely to comply with the regulations, and would have to worry less about whether they may be breaking the law if they light up in a particular area (since they will be encouraged to look for a smoking zone before getting their cigarettes out). On the other hand, non-smokers would enjoy the benefits of cleaner air, know precisely where to avoid, and be more confident when they report smoking transgressions.
Infrastructural limitation is a poor justification for refusing to establish more of these smoking areas in shopping malls and offices. Administrators or building managers could work closely with the NEA to determine how the premises can be mapped out, and where the box should be marked out. Correspondingly, ashtrays and garbage bins can then be included to prevent the improper disposal of cigarette butts or trash. If outdoor options have genuinely been exhausted, smoking rooms can be intelligently designed within the buildings for the same purpose as the aforementioned proposal.
A version of this article was published in The Straits Times.