Letter from Coral Ang to TODAY, Oct 17, 2011:
The no-smoking path
Ban people from doing so while walking but also enforce such a regulation
I refer to the report “Govt exploring extension of smoking ban in public places” (Oct 13), an action which is long overdue.
The perils of smoking and second-hand smoke are well known; the World Health Organization calls tobacco use the biggest health hazard that nations face.
The Government should not only ban people from smoking while they are walking but also have tight enforcement to ensure against disregard for such a regulation.
It is imperative the Government takes a multi-pronged approach on smoking. This should include banning the sale of tobacco products to those born in or after the year 2000 so that smoking will eventually be eradicated here.
New licences for the sale of tobacco products should not be issued, while the nationwide NTUC FairPrice supermarket chain could take the lead to cease the sale of tobacco products as part of its ethos to promote social and corporate responsibility.
Of course, it would be better to revoke current licences and have designated smoking centres to stop people from lighting up indiscriminately.
Medical subsidies should not be given to smokers for hospitalisation in public hospitals and for polyclinic visits. They ought to pay the full cost for the harm and suffering they inflict upon others.
I would even suggest not giving work permits, employment passes, permanent residency or citizenship to those who smoke.
Meanwhile, the Workplace Health and Safety Act should make it an employer’s duty to provide segregated offices for smokers and non-smokers to minimise non-smokers’ exposure to the odour and by-products such as tar in smokers’ breath and on their person.
There should be stiffer sanctions against those who flout the smoking ban and more enforcement officers island-wide.
I hope the Government will have the political will to implement such measures, for the taxes collected on tobacco simply do not outweigh the medical/health costs associated with smoking.
Stamping out tobacco use in Singapore will benefit the majority of the non-smoking population. If a country like Bhutan can ban the sale of tobacco products, I cannot see why we cannot do the same to promote health and happiness in our nation.
Even if the policies are bitter medicine to some, the government of the day must have the moral courage to do what is right.
Letter from Muhammad Haziq Jani to TODAY, Oct 18, 2011:
No-smoking path is Utopian
I refer to Ms Coral Ang’s letter “The no-smoking path” (Oct 17), is Utopian. A total ban on tobacco is overly aggressive; a line must be drawn such that the extent of government intervention is in the interest of the entire nation and not just the ideals of non-smokers.
I am not a smoker, but I know what smoking means to some people, locals and tourists, and that smoking requires regulation, not an outright ban.
Firstly, smoking has a symbolic meaning to people. It is one thing to ban chewing gum, but to ban smoking is to ban what were once called “freedom torches” in the United States, where women were initially banned from smoking in public. Smoking was a “way out” for people in war or poverty. Regardless of whether or not it is pointless, smoking holds a certain meaning to people worldwide. Banning it would make Singapore seem more authoritarian than it already is.
Smoking has health implications, but so does alcohol, certain medicines, obesity, lack of exercise and lack of hygiene. We cannot allow medical subsidies to be denied to smokers for two reasons.
First, to be fair, as there are those who damage their bodies through other means: Alcohol drinkers, the obese, even athletes who injure themselves through over-zealous training could be considered as people who irresponsibly damage their bodies.
Second, and more importantly, we must be humane. A smoker can learn to quit, and not all of his health problems may be caused by smoking. If subsidies are to be denied to smokers, it should be so for over-eaters and alcohol drinkers as well.
Finally, workplace segregation is a non-starter. If you dislike a smoker’s breath, ask him to eat a mint or be more responsible for his image and the office environment. Tar and other by-products do not spread like viruses.
If employers and colleagues are concerned about smoking, they should educate and advise smokers to quit, but never judge them for being smokers.
Singapore is a modern, capitalist and democratic state, while Bhutan is a spiritual country. Should such a serious smoking ban be considered here, we should have a referendum.
Yes, smoking is harmful but so are many other human actions. If we listen to Ms Ang, we might as well ban personal cars for contributing to global warming.