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Have entire smoke-free zones in public places

I refer to the letter “Build separate areas for smoking, or ban it altogether” (May 9, online).

I refer to the letter “Build separate areas for smoking, or ban it altogether” (May 9, online).

On my travels, I have come across exemplary non-smoking zones, like Bangkok’s open-air retail and dining district Asiatique The Riverfront, which spans over 12 acres. Smoking is permitted only at designated points.

It was a pleasant shopping and dining experience; I was never confronted with secondary smoke, and the floor was not littered with cigarette butts, many of which end up in waterways, harming fish and us, in turn.

Most significant of all, I feel, is that carving out an entire smoke-free zone sends a clear health and public education message: That smoking harms both smokers and non-smokers, and the society takes a stand to discourage smoking.

This has a more powerful symbolic value than putting up selective no-smoking signs. Within these zones, smokers can still smoke but only at designated areas. It did not appear to me that the rule had affected Asiatique’s business.

Moreover, episodic education campaigns against smoking are short-lived. Smoke-free zones act as a permanent statement and reminder about the ills of smoking, almost like gantries in city areas where electronic road pricing applies.

Progressive cities like Malacca, Bangkok, Tokyo, Kyoto, Sydney and Melbourne have established smoke-free zones in public places.

As Singapore aims to bring smoking rates down to 12 per cent by 2020 and eventually move towards designated smoking points in public areas, the National Environment Agency should pilot smoke-free zones in, say, Orchard Road and Clarke Quay.

This would be an intermediate step with declarative power in the war against the scourge of tobacco.

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