Saturday, July 15, 2006

Questionable laws

There are several questionable laws in Singapore. And the most recent being the law of No Smoking Outdoors. Other than the designated area demarcated by a thick yellow line, the rest of the seats outdoors prohibit lighting up. This demarcated area must be only 20 percent of the cafe/coffeehouse's outdoor seating area. Which quite literally means a grand total of about 3 to 4 tables for smokers. We have several aspects of this issue to cover here. So bear with me.

Firstly, this crazy idea of half banning smoking in Singapore is probably driving smokers up the wall. The government seems to be playing the cat and a ball of string game. Initially, it was the price hike of cigarettes. Overnight, the government discovered that a 5 dollar pack of Marlboro twenties are going to kill more people than the holocaust so they decided to raise it to a princely sum of 9.50.

Abhorred by this sudden hike, many smokers were thrown quite literally of the smoking trail. Just when they thought the government will leave them alone, the ban on small packs of 10 sticks was imposed.

Devastated, the smokers decided that they have no choice now. They have to puff more. Only 20 sticks on sale what. Bo pian. Never smoke more, cigarette 'lao hong'. With the government now 'encouraging' smoking, another trick was pulled out of their sleeve. They decided to show the population the evil repercussions of smoking 20 sticks a day. Pictures of blackened teeth, premature babies, dying man, unhappy families and throat with cancer cells were printed on the pack of cigarettes.

Low and behold, nobody really cared and teens were in fact enticed by the pictures. So non-smokers started to complain. Wa lao, so many disincentive smokers still smoking! An amazing study was then introduced stating that second hand smoke kills faster than first hand smoke.

So we trust the government to efficently respond and clam down hard on the poor souls of smokers. Now, outdoor areas have only limited space for smoking.

Now let's point out the flaws. Seating in the newly minted No smoking at this table seat at an outdoor dining area, I discovered that I was about 30cm from the yellow line that divided smokers from non smokers. Being the passive citizen like all Singaporeans and trusting our always know best government, I sat there happily thinking that now I can enjoy my cup of coffee without irritating second hand smoke circulating around my face. Ah! What freedom for my long suffering lungs!

So as a lady took a seat in the smoking corner, I was still happily smiling to myself. As she lighted up her Virginia Slims, suddenly, my nostrils detected a strong smell of cigarette smoke. How can this be? I am in the non-smoking zone leh! Outdoor dining now must be a safe heaven from second hand smoke!

Then it dawn onto me that in theory, a yellow line separating smokers from non-smokers WILL ensure non-smokers have a peace of mind to eat their food. But in PRACTICE, smoke drifts. Just like the rubbish stench from the garbage truck travel to your nose even when you live 12 floors up, cigarette smoke travels in a similar way.

Very soon, I discovered that the smoke that the lady exhaled had proliferated every single table in the non-smoking zone. Oh! How the plan to keep non-smokers healthy has failed! I am still in danger!

Secondly, those disgusting yellow lines drawn in practically every kopi tiam and al fresco dining area is an eye-sore. Every male who has served in the army will attest that yellow lines around a seating area will only mean one thing. Smoking Area. Yellow Box. You cannot smoke outside the yellow box or you will be charged.

A friend of mine said 'Singapore is now one big SAF camp. Yellow lines everywhere.'

How true. And how sad.

If you find that Singapore is a police state, well good news, it has gotten worse. A country so reliant on foreign tourist and compliments has now turn into an area of ugly yellow lines. Imagine what Lonely Planet will put in their new edition of Guide to Singapore.

'Look out for this famous yellow lines. You can only smoke expensive Singaporean priced cigarettes within the lines. Step out of it and you will be fined.'

Yeah, this is to add on to the No Chewing Gum. No Littering. No Vandalism. No Parking. No Entry. No Everything. Screw you Singapore, we tourist will now say NO SINGAPORE.

Hence, I say impose a law only if it is effective and sightly. Singapore prides itself as a clean and green state. Orderly and beautiful are the adjectives. Don't pollute the land with disgusting yellow lines. Save that for the army camps. And please get rid of the smoking in selected seating rules. I am still breathing in cigarette smoke and a few steps away from contracting lung cancer.

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