Friday, October 05, 2007

Smoke Them Out?

This is something funny yet true.

A friend walked up to my cubicle today to talk about work and then started to talk about smokers' predicament as the company is trying to curb smoking anywhere within the office building... not even along the open-air corridors.

It is being suggested that all smokers will have to go outside the building where a large Mango tree is to be the designated smoking area.

If implemented, anyone from the 5-storey building will have to go to the ground floor open space to have a break... a huff before the puff. Rain or shine. Well, they have to hold an umbrella while smoking in the rain if the need kicks in too hard to pass.

Fortunately, I do not smoke and actually hate second-hand smoking... not the smokers though, just their habits. Fortunately too that none in my family of 10 smoke.

Personally, I think smokers are slowly killing themselves and endangering their families and bystanders from inhaling their exhausted "breath of death" at the same time.

I think they are taking the nation's cost of medical pie to support their habit's end result after they invited and finally develop some form of smoking-related diseases especially cancer.

Smoking is even lethal while in bed... that recreational puff can poof the whole house if it caught fire.

Anyway, back to the smoking-in-the-building-ban policy... it triggered my friend to talk about the bigger picture of the smokers' predicament in Singapore.

The authorities continually try to make smokers kick their destructive habit by curbing smoking in air-conditioned or enclosed areas, and areas where there are a concentration of people to avoid second-hand smoking.

That is all good and I applaud the move.

On the economic side of it, the authorities had increased the price of this legal drug per pack and had about a year and a half, restricted the cigarette pack from the various choices of 7, 10, 12... 20 sticks per pack to only just packs of 20 sticks available island-wide.

The intention is to deter teenagers from being able to afford using their pocket money to buy the cheapest pack of 7 sticks for themselves.

Now that the pack of 20 sticks has become even more expensive with increased taxation, the teenagers work around it by pooling money with their smoker-friends to buy the pack and share amongst themselves!

Formerly there were a few teenagers in groups of close friends hanging-out and smoking together, now the same groups have become even larger... and even more "tightly-knitted" than before, simply by banding together in this habit in the rush for "adulthood."

That is not all. Nowadays, teenagers can opt to work part-time to get extra pocket money. So with that buying power, a pack of 20 sticks each is a charm... however expensive it can get.

That would have probably resulted in each teenager smoking even more sticks a day, simply because the taste will be a little off after the 3rd day onwards. That is what the adult smokers are doing anyway... trying to finish the pack within a two-day period.

This is precisely what my friend was doing.

He was a 5 to 6-sticks-a-day smoker when his regular pack was a 10 stick. Since the ban of smaller packs to only 20 stick a pack, he started to increase his daily smoke breaks to 10.

The cigarette simply did not taste well after the 3rd day, hence the rush to finish the whole pack before it was "spoiled."

I guess, with the stubbornness of hardcore smokers and the lure of budding newbies make the efforts quite useless. At least one thing is for sure... the economics of taxing cigarettes to the all time high, benefits at least some "body."

Wonder what will happen if this island bans cigarettes altogether?

Will the hardcores retaliate with hostile abandonment? Will the smokers fight-for-smog be secretly syndicated and sponsored by the tobacco companies?

Internally, will there be a temporary yet lucrative market to benefit economically from setting up of cold-turkey centres?


  1. Great post. Here in Canada there is no smoking in any public building. That means restaraunts, offices, malls... I must say as a non smoker this is wonderful. As far as the smoker goes, they hate it cuz they have to go outside to puff up. Here in winter it gets very minus cold. But if smokers want to have a puff they must bundle up and go out to do the dirty deed. I am very thankful I never got adicted to that nasty habit. Speaking of thankful, it is Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada. I don't know if you celebrate this tradition in your country, but I just want to say happy thanksgiving to everyone that does. Have a great weekend.

  2. Very thought provoking post Imran
    We too have a no smoking ban in all public places here in the UK. I am all for it myself and wholeheartedly wish that would extend to all ouside areas as well. It has been proven without a shadow of a doubt that these sticks kill, how much more time will the governments waste. The revenue they receive must far outway the medical treatments the British health service pay to nurse related illnesses for free under our NHS system.
    As an aside I did a report for a company I was with back in the late 80's when people were huddling outside office buildings a few times a day to light up their cigarettes, 2 cigarette breaks, each of 15 mins equate to 4 man days a year.
    Now there's a point to get worked up about.......

  3. The smokers in NY go outside even in freezing weather. I think the ban on smoking inside workplaces has been a marvelous thing and works well. I hope it works there as well.

  4. Hello All,

    Thank you for stopping by. Like all western countries, Singapore is adopting the No Smoking in any air-conditioned or enclosed buildings too.

    The open-air corridor is still a place where smokers congregate to puff.

    This will be a new thing for us when no smoking is allowed within the buildings itself.

    Wandi | Happy Thanksgiving!! Is turkey the main centrepiece like in the US?

    I tried to smoke a stick when I was a teenager, but it just tasted bad in my mouth and until now I cannot figure out what is pleasant about smoking.

    Tanie | 2 cigarette breaks equate 30 minutes. At my workplace, the smokers congregate often, more than 2 definitely. All that waste of time and health... money puffed in smoke.

    Barbara | I think it is a great thing too. I am for no-smoking all the way. You are right. In a condensed city like Singapore, we are already exposed to the exhaust fumes from vehicles, we really don't need individuals to add to the smog too.

    Thank you all for your messages. Here's to clean air wherever we can get it! Have a great week ahead.

  5. well said. I really like the 1st photo. :)

  6. Ah, non-smoking policy, me like! In Sweden we have implemented this rule even in restaurants and café’s, even pubs & bars – everyone has to go outside to smoke! So amazing to be able to go out without coughing your lungs out due to second hand smoking….. which btw is totally repulsive!


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Muhd Imran
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