Written Reply to Parliamentary Question on Ban on Smoking in HDB Flats and Private Apartments by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment
Written Reply by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, to Parliamentary Question on Ban on Smoking in HDB Flats and Private Apartments, on 4 January 2021
Mr Louis Ng Kok Kwang: To ask the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment in the Ministry's review on how to enforce a ban on smoking near windows and at balconies of HDB flats and private apartments, whether the Ministry has studied how the Government collects evidence and enforces section 27A of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act where a person cannot be naked in a private place while being exposed to public view.
Protecting Singaporeans against secondhand tobacco smoke is and has been my Ministry's priority. Today, the smoking prohibition has been extended to more than 32,000 places, including covered common areas right up to the doorstep of homes.
The proposal to impose a ban on smoking near windows and at balconies of HDB flats and private apartments had been discussed earlier in this House. A ban is not the silver bullet to this issue. Privacy concerns aside, there are practical challenges of investigating and enforcing against smoking in homes.
We are aware of how Police conducts investigation into offences of a person being naked in a private place while exposed to public view, and it cannot be compared to the case of enforcing against smoking near windows and at balconies of homes. For example, one can smell smoke even without having sight of the smoker, nor the ability to pin-point where the smoke is coming from. But to impose a fine on the smoker, we need evidence to show the act of smoking, not merely the smell of the smoke. It will be challenging to track down the smoker or obtain evidence of an act of smoking being committed without rather intrusive methods given the current technology, affecting even the privacy of innocent neighbors. And such efforts may still be futile if the smoker hides behind a pillar, frosted glass windows or curtains to avoid detection. In contrast, a complainant would more easily pinpoint the location and capture evidence of a nude person exposing himself or herself to public view, to assist with investigation. The frequency and nature of these two acts are different and should not be compared directly.
Despite the challenges, we are working with government agencies and the community to focus on encouraging individuals to practise greater social responsibility and facilitating conversations between neighbours.
Furthermore, we are monitoring best practices globally and developments in technology and legislation. We will continue to evaluate the effectiveness of our efforts in protecting the public from secondhand tobacco smoke, and consider reasonable and practical solutions as they emerge to further strengthen these efforts.