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HDB flats (Photo - Terry Xu)

Netizens call for a smoking ban after NEA investigates smoker caught on thermal camera in HDB corridor

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has gotten in touch with a resident at Bedok to furnish details after a smoker was caught smoking multiple times at the corridor of his flat. The smoker’s action was captured by a thermal camera installed near the corridor.

Based on a letter dated 6 June which was addressed to the lessee at Block 620 Bedok Reservoir Road, NEA noted that a surveillance camera had captured “people smoking at the corridor…and entering/exiting from the unit”.

In addition, it also said that this offence occurred at 12 different occasions from 11-14 April.

It appears that NEA received 13 complaints from residents over smoking offences at the block since February this year.

As such, it conducted multiple rounds of surveillance at the particular block, and even installed a thermal camera. Following that, the agency managed to identify a possible culprit and a letter was sent to the resident.

In the letter, it was stated that the lessee is asked to “provide relevant information of the offence such as the identity and address of the person who was smoking at or about the time of the alleged offence(s)”, and failing to provide the information within 14 days could result in him being charged under Section 4B of the Smoking (Prohibition in Certain Places) Act and fined up to S$2,000 for a first-time offender.

Photo Credit: TODAYonline

The Act also says fine up to S$1,000 can be given to a person who is found guilty of smoking at a prohibited area.

In a statement, a NEA spokesperson revealed, “During our thermal camera deployment at this block, a subject was seen smoking along the corridor at 12 occasions.”

NEA also noted that appropriate actions will be taken once investigations are over.

Since January this year, the agency had installed over 70 thermal cameras in residential areas and other areas where continuous smoking-related complaints were received, the statement said.

The cameras have the capability to “detect objects emitting high heat and capture images of the smoking offence”, giving NEA a better chance to detect smoking in forbidden areas.

However, NEA assures that everyone’s privacy is respected with the installment of thermal cameras.

“The thermal camera focuses only on the common corridors, lift lobbies or staircase landings as these are smoking prohibited areas. These are strict protocols governing the viewing of the footage and only authorised NEA staff and the vendor may handle and view the video footage for official purposes,” it said.

The statement added, “Footage that does not capture any smoking offences will be destroyed after three months.”

The deployment of thermal cameras are NEA’s enforcement move to stop people from smoking in banned areas. In 2018, more than 30,000 tickets were given out by NEA for smoking offences.

Over on social media, netizens are pushing for the Government to ban smoking altogether, just like what they did with chewing gum. Commenting on ST‘s and TODAY‘s Facebook pages, online users said instead of wasting funds on thermal cameras, cigarettes should not be sold anymore so this kind of offences will not take place.

Some of them said that NEA is going overboard with the installment of cameras to catch smokers. However, others are saying that they should be allowed to smoke at corridors as it would be better than smoking inside the house as the smell stays indoor longer.

Despite the complaints, a bunch of online users praised NEA for their efforts to capture smokers so others can breathe fresh air and won’t be forced to be second-hand smokers.