On Friday (17 January), the National Environment Agency (NEA) revealed that more than 4,000 tickets were issued to smokers who violated the smoking ban in Orchard Road in 2019.
Since last April, public areas within Orchard Road has been labelled as a No Smoking Zone, and people are only allowed to smoke at Designated Smoking Areas (DSAs) placed along the famous shopping street.
NEA stated that 26 percent of the tickets issued were to tourists, while the rest were issued to local residents. Individuals who have been issued tickets will have to pay a composition fine of S$200.
Before the ban came into full effect in April 2019, NEA took an advisory approach first for the first three months of the year (January to March) so people will have enough time to adjust to the ban, NEA noted in its Friday’s statement.
Apart from stationing enforcement officers at the area, the Agency has also been utilising surveillance cameras to monitor and detect offenders at certain smoking hotspots within the smoke-free zone.
NEA highlighted that a daily average of 735 advisories were given to lawbreakers during the advisory period. When the enforcement started in April, a daily average of 21 tickets were issued that month.
The good news is that the number dropped to an average of 15 tickets per day from September to December 2019.
The NEA stressed that the reason behind this is due to “consistent enforcement and process refinements”.
Additionally, the Agency also noted that people have become more aware that the Orchard Road precinct had become a smoke-free zone, contributing to the reduced number of offenders. As such, it has replaced the older grey stickers with blue stickers that say “no smoking zone” on more than 100 litter bins along Orchard Road to maintain general public awareness of the ban.
Based on the survey results that NEA conducted last July, it found that 80 percent of 1,000 respondents, about 400 of whom were smokers, supported the smoking ban.
In fact, when the ban was first announced early last year, majority of netizens also supported the move and urged the government to make the entire Singapore a smoke-free zone.
Besides that, having smoke-free public areas prevent people from secondhand smoke, which kills more than 600,000 non-smokers globally every year, said Dr Yvette van der Eijk, senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health.
“It is also substantially worse where there are more people smoking, where smokers are seated in proximity, and where there are overhead shelters,” she was quoted by The Straits Times (ST).
She added that placing smoke-free zones in a popular entertainment area like Orchard also helps in removing the association between smoking and other social activities like shopping, drinking and hanging out.
“By having smoke-free areas, people are less exposed to the act of smoking as a social behaviour. This helps to send a message to society, especially the younger generation, that smoking is not a ‘normal’ adult behaviour,” she said.
Separately, Steve Goh, Executive Director of the Orchard Road Business Association (ORBA) said, “The feedback by both stakeholders and visitors has been positive. Since implementation of the No Smoking Zone, the Orchard Road pedestrian thoroughfare is comparatively cleaner for all non-smoking visitors, whilst smokers have adjusted to smoking within the designed smoking area.”
ORBA’s chairman, Mark Shaw, told ST that he had not received any complaints from business owners saying that their business has been affected since the smoking ban was implemented.
However, he noted that the DSAs can be quite crowded during peak hours.
Currently, there are 54 DSAs along Orchard Road, and four of it were added since April 2019.
Speaking of adding more DSAs, Tony Teo, director of NEA’s environmental public health operations, revealed that there are no plans to add more DSAs, or to expand or enhance the smoking zones.
“We have more than 50 DSAs in the zone, most of which are within walking distance from wherever you are. You could also walk out of the zone to smoke,” he said to ST.
He continued, “As you can see, Orchard Road is a very busy place. There are not really a lot of places you can site the DSAs. We have to work very closely with the premises’ operators and site them where we can.”