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Air-con cabin that turns cigarette smoke into clean air launched in Singapore

SINGAPORE — Smokers who cannot kick the unhealthy habit may soon be able to shelter from the tropical heat and rain in air-conditioned comfort when having a puff outside their office or near a shopping mall. Non-smokers may also be saved from breathing in second-hand smoke.

Mr Stefen Choo, director of Southern Global Corporation, poses in front of the Smoking Cabin SG located at One-north.

Mr Stefen Choo, director of Southern Global Corporation, poses in front of the Smoking Cabin SG located at One-north.

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SINGAPORE — Smokers who cannot kick the unhealthy habit may soon be able to shelter from the tropical heat and rain in air-conditioned comfort when having a puff outside their office or near a shopping mall. Non-smokers may also be saved from breathing in second-hand smoke.

A company here, Southern Globe Corporation, aims to introduce Singapore’s first outdoor air-conditioned smoking cabins that filter cigarette smoke into clear air, with a prototype launched on Tuesday (May 21).

If the idea gets off the ground, up to 120 cabins could be installed islandwide by next year. Its filtration system is what sets it apart from smoking rooms and lounges, such as the ones that can be found at the airport, the company said

However, going by the initial reactions of some smokers who tried the prototype cabin, its makers may have some work to do. 

The cabin, named Smoking Cabin SG, measures about 3m by 2.5m and is located outside Fusionopolis at One-north, near the building’s designated smoking area. It has been there for two weeks before the launch and will stay there for a year.

Smokers who work in nearby office buildings and who usually smoke outdoors told TODAY that they appreciate the idea behind the smoking cabin. But some, such as Mr Vivek Guptal, 39, said that ventilation inside still leaves a lot to be desired and can get uncomfortable at times, especially when it is crowded.

“The concept is good and it protects non-smokers from second-hand smoke," he said, but it is not pleasant for the smokers.

The company said that up to 10 people can fit in the cabin, but Mr Guptal noted that "four to five people seems to be the maximum” that can fit in the cabin. 

Others complained that the tobacco smell stays on their clothes far more when using the cabin compared to smoking outdoors.

Responding to the criticism, the firm’s director Stefen Choo said that the cabin is still a prototype, and the team is experimenting with the positioning of the ventilation system to improve the smoke intake.

Some other smokers expressed discomfort with the number of security cameras around them. TODAY counted four security cameras, including one inside the cabin.

Mr Choo said that the camera recording is not being actively monitored, but will be used for security reasons and in cases of vandalism. He added that the recordings will never be used for marketing purposes.

Mr Alvin Chia, 51, who manages security in office and retail buildings, said: “If it is compliant with the PDPA (Personal Data Protection Act) and a notice (is displayed) on the door stating the purpose of the cameras, then I will encourage smokers to use it.”

Southern Globe Corporation is an aviation spare parts sales and logistics company and is seeking to diversify its revenue streams with this project.

Mr Choo calls it a “win-win solution” for smokers and non-smokers. Driven by a desire to protect his family and two children from the “inconvenience” of cigarette smoke, he decided to bring the Danish filtration technology to Singapore.

“I have always felt that there should be a better solution to contain cigarette smoke in Singapore,” he said, adding that the solution should also not require people to “smoke in the rain under an umbrella”.

ADVERTISING IN CABIN TO COVER THE COST

The S$20,000 cabin comes at no cost for the office and retail complex. The cabin’s walls and a television screen inside serve as advertising real estate, with ad revenue to offset the cost of building the cabin, Mr Choo said.

Inside, a fan sucks the cigarette smoke through three layers of filtration — a pre-filter that removes larger dust particles, a high-efficiency particulate air filter which traps microscopic particles as small as 0.3 microns, and an activated carbon filter that removes the odours.

The air is then released from the cabin as 99.95 per cent clean air back into the environment, while another vent brings fresh air back into the cabin, the firm said.

The fans are turned on only when the automatic motion sensors inside are triggered.

Smoke Solution, the Danish company that manufactures the filtration system, has had its technology used in similar cabins in places such as Denmark, Dubai, Japan and Kuwait.

The filters require changing after 18,000 cigarettes, or twice a year based on current estimates of 100 daily users. Electricity costs for the cabin would add a further S$200 a month.

The cabin cannot be installed inside a building owing to regulations that prohibit smoking in certain areas. A portable model is in the works and could be made avaialble for rental in the future for outdoor events, Mr Choo added.

The company is in talks with various government agencies, and managers of malls and office buildings. It aims to set up 60 cabins here by the end of the year and another 60 next year. No orders for the cabins have been confirmed yet, Mr Choo said.

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