More than 80 per cent of Singaporeans have been working from home since the implementation of the circuit breaker to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Since smoking is categorised as “non-essential” by the National Environment Agency (NEA), smokers are unable get out of their homes for a puff or two. Therefore, smokers are only allowed to smoke outdoors when they leave home for essential purposes, such as buying food or going to work if they’re in the essential services.
This particular restriction has caused smokers to light their cigarettes at home since there is no ban on smoking at home. Consequently, non-smokers who are living with smokers will be “forced” to inhale secondhand smoke, making it an unforeseen circumstance of the circuit breaker.
Not only the families or housemates of the smokers are impacted, but their neighbours as well.
Case in point, it was reported by a member of the public that smoke has been drifting into the neighbours’ homes “round-the-clock” from units upstairs, downstairs, as well as the ones residing on the same floor.
Mr Liu, a concerned citizen, wrote to TODAY, commenting that there is at least one smoker on every floor in his condominium building. He described that he and his non-smoking neighbours have been experiencing worsening respiratory irritation and asthma since they began working from home.
He also noted that there was “no relief in sight”, implying that the smoke was bothering them constantly and they could not take a breather.
Mr Liu’s point of voicing out was basically to call for the authorities to take actions so that smokers would cut down on smoking in their homes.
Taking into account that the World Health Organization (WHO) claimed that smokers are likely to be more vulnerable to contract the coronavirus due to increased frequency of touching their lips with their fingers, he was concerned that it could raise several issues.
According to Mr Liu, smokers are at heightened risk of developing serious illnesses because they may have compromised lungs. He further explained that people with cotinine – a metabolite of nicotine that accumulates due to tobacco exposure – in their bodies would have a higher risk of acute respiratory failure.
He emphasised that the risk is still present even when cotinine associated with secondhand smoke is at a low level in the body.
This would potentially put both smokers and secondhand smokers at much greater risks of dying from acute respiratory distress syndrome, which Mr Liu stated was a major complication of COVID-19.
Having that said, he wished that the authorities could “step up efforts” to educate smokers about the increased risk of contracting COVID-19 due to smoking, as well as the adverse effects of secondhand smoke that their families and neighbours are exposed to.
Mr Liu described this as “moral suasion”, which is deemed the “least” the authorities could do.
Finally, he warned that there would be an increase in heart attacks, strokes, and cancers among the “otherwise-healthy” passive smokers, especially if it is not acted upon.