Tough to act on smoking near windows and balconies at home

Minister says hard to pinpoint smoker without intrusive means, but tackling second-hand smoke still priority

Investigating the offence of a person being naked at home cannot be compared with enforcing against smoking near windows and at balconies of homes, said Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu on Monday.

"One can smell smoke even without having sight of the smoker nor the ability to pinpoint where the smoke is coming from," she explained in a written response to a parliamentary question filed by Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC).

"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... And such efforts may still be futile if the smoker hides behind a pillar, frosted glass windows or curtains to avoid detection," Ms Fu added.

"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."

Mr Ng first called for a ban on smoking near windows or balconies in homes last October.

He said then that while such a move might seem intrusive, there were laws in place to police people's behaviour at home - like Section 27A of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act, where one cannot bare it all, even in private, while exposed to public view.

In a Facebook post at the end of October, Mr Ng wrote: "Being naked in your own home doesn't kill your neighbour but second-hand smoke could."

But Ms Fu said the frequency and nature of going in the buff and going for a puff were different. Still, she assured Mr Ng that tackling second-hand smoke was a priority for her ministry, which is focused on encouraging individuals to be more socially responsible and facilitating conversations between neighbours.

Ms Fu also noted that smoking is prohibited in more than 32,000 locations, including covered common areas right up to the doorstep of homes.

Since 2015, the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment has required newly built and renovated hawker centres to be smoke-free.

Ms Fu said that as at last month, the number with smoking corners has been whittled down to 27 out of 114.