What Are Our MPs Smoking?

As Parliament passed amendments on 10 September 2018 to the Smoking (Prohibition in Certain Places) Act, which allows the Government to designate more no-smoking zones and give officers more enforcement powers, a few  Members of Parliament (MP) have expressed their opinion that more needs to be done with regards to addressing secondhand smoke from neighbours' homes.

  1. Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng said. "But the concern which has been raised in this House before is: What are we doing to protect people from secondhand smoke in their own homes?"
  2. Tanjong Pagar GRC MP and surgeon Chia Shi-Lu  said he has received numerous complaints from residents about the "nuisance and unhealthy effects of neighbours’ secondhand smoke drifting into their flats".
  3. Jurong GRC MP Rahayu Mahzam also recalled how one of her residents, a lung cancer survivor living in a condominium had no choice but to tolerate a neighbour who had a habit of smoking at the window.
  4. Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah mentioned that  conflicts between HDB neighbours involving cigarette smoke entering other houses are increasing.
  5. Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Gan Thiam Poh has stated that non-smokers have been complaining for years about smokers who smoke along common corridors as well as staircase landings.
The Government's response by way of  Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor, looked at this issue as one of privacy concerns as opposed to regulating one's conduct in their own home.
 
When I read the CNA article, which spoke about this issue, I could not help but wonder if our Parliament is really made up of "padicha muttals". Is the real issue that difficult to notice? 


 
WHY ARE WE NOT DISCUSSING A COMPLETE BAN ON CIGARETTES?

[Note: All you smokers out there, calm your lungs and hear me out first before you go all smoke and fire on me?]

If these so called people's representatives PAP MPs really had their residents' interests at heart, these are alternatives that could be considered. 
Being a City-State, it actually makes the roll-out of a new policy extremely feasible. Yes, this may not be a popular policy. But we Singaporeans are definitely not new to unpopular policies and decisions. How many of us are really happy with the changes to the CPF scheme in the past decade?
 
The Coffeeshop talk is that the Government while appearing to against smoking also tends to love the tax revenue that it derives from the tobacco industry, basic research online points at numbers close to the $1 billion mark, Yes that's a B.
 
While there are enough statistics and studies to show that increase in tax does not achieve a decrease in smokers or smoking (the apparent desired policy objective), that has been the constant strategy of State. This does make you wonder about the true objective of the Government's policies. 
 
The popular counter argument to a total ban is that it could spark the rise of contraband cigarettes. While this may be true, contraband cigarettes are already rife. Almost every smoker has heard rumours that you can get contraband cigarettes easily at places like Geylang and Sungei Kadut. The fact that contraband cigarettes  can thrive is because smoking is still legal. Now, you need to inspect the cigarette to be ascertains its lawfulness. If cigarettes are completely banned, a contraband smoker would be petrified to smoke in the open.



What we really can do is to introduce e-cigarettes which are obviously a healthier alternative to cigarettes. But our Government chooses to focus on data that suggests e-cigarettes are detrimental to health, ignoring many others that suggest otherwise.

Perhaps, what we can do is get Singapore Technologies or some other Government-linked Company to manufacture a SG approved E-Cigarette and sell the re-fillable liquid. They could go one step further by selling the ones with Nicotine at only pharmacies and clinics. That way, the G still gets the revenue that they want and smokers now get to get their fix, minus the tar and all the unhealthy chemicals



And finally, we need to make sense of  smoking and rightly diagnose it as nicotine addiction. If we can diagnose gambling addiction, drug addiction, and even gaming addiction, we should progress and correctly see the habit of smoking as a result of an addiction, which has to be acknowledged as a problem. 

How else can one deter smoking to a teenage or a young adult. In my spare time, I do volunteer with a self-help group and we have this yearly residential seminar for JC/Poly and ITE students. Most of them are around 17 years of age. As a group facilitator,I found it completely difficult to advise a 17 old student in my group that was smoking. In 3 months, he would be 18. Can I tell him that he is doing something wrong? Telling him that he is too young to do something at an age where he can legally pro-create also seems absurd. 

We need to stop normalising smoking. We need to acknowledge it for what it truly is: An Addiction. Something that is wrong. Let's compare this phenomena with marijuana for example. Unlike smoking, there are no medical consequences of smoking weed. Heck, even, Lord Shiva does it. But in Singapore, we know its wrong, because of the law. That distinction is clear and simple. We need to bring that clarity to smoking. It may not reduce the number of current smokers but it will eradicate the next generation. 

Singapore is famous for its first generation of leaders who had the foresight and vision to build Singapore to what it is today. Are our current leaders visually handicapped or are they smoking something that's clouding the real picture?


Thinesh Kurunathan

Sources of Inspiration
https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/mps-dangers-of-secondhand-smoke-smoking-in-homes-10701812

http://tobaccotax.seatca.org/country/singapore/

https://www.todayonline.com/commentary/why-increase-tobacco-excise-tax-unlikely-curb-smoking

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/singapore-budget-2018-10-increase-in-tobacco-excise-duty-for-all-tobacco-products

http://ricemedia.co/current-affairs-opinion-singapores-ban-e-cigarettes-gives-public-health-finger/

https://www.todayonline.com/commentary/singapore-should-aim-be-smoke-free-not-just-smoke-lite

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