SPEECH BY DERRICK GOH, MP FOR NEE SOON GRC, AT THE SECOND READING OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL PUBLIC HEALTH (AMENDMENT) BILL IN PARLIAMENT
Mr Speaker Sir
A clean environment with good sanitation is something we cannot take for granted.
For locations visited by Covid-19 patients, we follow the practice of disinfecting and deep cleaning Residential, Work or Public places.
However, in situation related to cleaning of high-risk premises, such as pre-schools and eldercare facilities, and locations, where many people share the same body of water or recirculating the air, such as (1) swimming pools, spas and water playgrounds and (2) central air-conditioning systems, there should be maintenance standards and practices set in these areas.
So, it is timely that the government strengthens and mandate maintenance standards as well as placing accountability on premises managers that have aquatic facilities or licensable aerosol-generating systems, it will help reduce the risks posed by diseases and create a safer environment for all to live, work and play.
In support of this Bill, I would like to highlight that many of us are working from home as a result of this pandemic, which have implications on the current way we regulate Environmental public health. Given this recent trend, there are now more, both smokers and non-smokers, who are Working from Home.
Many industry experts expect that Working from home will continue well after this pandemic ends, this is due to the benefits of remote working to individuals as well as for corporates.
Over the last few months, I received many feedback from residents about exposure to cigarette smoke floating into their flats from neighbours who smoke. This trend coincides with the report by The Straits Times that NEA received 11,400 cases of feedback for the period Jan – April this year. This represents a 21% increase in cases related to smoking in residential homes and corridors. As Circuit breaker measures kicked in on 7th April, it is likely that the number complaints to NEA would have been higher since the last report.
The dangers of 2nd hand smoke as a silent killer, the smell and residue of nicotine and the irritation to nose and throat, are well documented and have been discussed previously in this house, so I won’t deliver this point. Of the residents’ feedback I have received about neighbours smoking, about at least half of those were smoking near open windows or doors.
Today, the solution to limit the effects of second-hand smoke floating from a neighbour is for the non-smoker to shut their windows or doors. This cannot be a fair outcome.
A practical way is to perhaps require resident smokers to close their windows and doors when they smoke, and of course to go down to the open spaces on the ground floor if they have kids around. This solution aligns to existing NEA regulations which require the windows of private vehicles are fully wound up so that no second-hand tobacco smoke is expelled when the driver smokes in certain areas. A similar parallel could be drawn to the smoking rooms at hotel where doors and windows are closed so that the impact to other hotel occupants are minimized.
In this way, a requirement like this will protect the rights of all parties concerned. For residents to smoke at home, as well as non-smokers and neighbours to protect their health. In fact, this proposal provides the non-smoker the added option of closing their windows or doors.
I understand that such a policy does not completely eliminate the impact of secondhand smoke, however, it significantly reduce the impact of smoke on residents living next to a smoker resident. Importantly, this proposal is a balanced approach that draws a line and recognises the need for both sides, and not just the party whose health is endangered, to play their part. This will also go a long way towards reducing the tension between neighbours as our living spaces become more compact. This will be yet another step taken in the right direction, that does not add to the complexity of our exisiting enforcement measures. I hope Minister Grace will study this and consider amending the regulations in the future to address this environmental health issue, that is at the heart of many HDB and condominium residents.
In Chinese please.
In conclusion, the new policies in this amendment will give residents greater peace of mind. In the longer term, this will be a significant boost to Environmental Public health of all in Singapore. Sir, I support the Bill.
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