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Health, Beauty & Fashion

Stubbing out the eat-and-puff habit

Aim is for 1 in 5 food centres to be smoke-free by 2013
The Straits Times - March 5, 2012
By: Daryl Chin & Tham Yuen C
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Stubbing out the eat-and-puff habit Adam Road Food Centre, a Blue Ribbon food centre. -- ST PHOTO: MUGILAN RAGASEGERAN

COME the end of next year, it is hoped that 21 out of the 107 - one in five - food centres islandwide will be smoke-free.

This is the goal the Health Promotion Board (HPB) is shooting for, though the decision to get on board this push for smoke-free eating places will be voluntary.

Already, 10 food centres have counted themselves in, earning themselves a Blue Ribbon by doing away with their demarcated zones for smokers.

The Blue Ribbon movement was endorsed by the World Health Organisation, with the drive to cut down second-hand smoke starting in Canada in 1999.

Blue Ribbon food centres include the Adam Road Food Centre, ABC Brickworks Market and Food Centre in Jalan Bukit Merah, Albert Centre Market and Food Centre, and the Tampines Round Market and Food Centre.

These food centres and others who choose to go the same way will have signs put up by the HPB to signify their commitment to being smoke-free.

Minister of State for Health Amy Khor, who launched the Blue Ribbon initiative at the Gek Poh Ville Community Club in Jurong West yesterday, said it is important to make clear that smoke-free living is the 'default lifestyle'.

Singapore, where 14 per cent of the people are smokers, is the first in the region to adopt the Blue Ribbon initiative.

Getting ordinary Singaporeans engaged in promoting tobacco-free living would be a 'bottom-up' way of building a smoke-free environment, said Dr Khor.

Mr Chin Sin Fong, 58, who quit smoking more than 10 years ago, is glad that Adam Road Food Centre has opted to go smoke-free: It means he has more options in where to sit.

'I used to sit among the smokers only when I had no choice and there were no other tables,' he said.

Mr Chia Chay Puay, the vice-chairman of the Upper Boon Keng Road hawkers' association with 100 stalls under his purview, said: 'We know the harmful effects of smoking and want our patrons to eat without the danger of second-hand smoke.'

Stalls selling cigarettes have been phased out in his area. Only one sells them now, down from eight previously.

Housewife Xu Ai Mei, 33, is glad that food-centre stalls selling cigarettes will be harder to find, because her heavy-smoker husband quit the habit recently for the sake of their children aged five and seven.

She said: 'It's better for us to spend the money on our children than on cigarettes, and there'll be less temptation for him if he can't smoke in food centres.'

Smoker Azlan Azhar, an insurance agent aged 35, is dismayed at the news. He said: 'Already, we're confined to such a small place. If I can't smoke, I'll just take my business elsewhere.'

But stall holders at the Adam Road Food Centre and Ghim Moh Food Centre said yesterday that being smoke-free has so far not dented their business.

Mr Jainullah Anwar Sadath, 32, who runs the Taj Mahal Drinks Stall at Adam Road Food Centre, said the smokers are now going outside for a puff, and not seeming to mind doing it.

At Ghim Moh Food Centre, Meng Tai Minced Meat Noodle stall owner Tony Cheng, himself a smoker, backed the ban as well, saying in Mandarin:

'The air is better, and the place is cleaner. There used to be cigarette butts on the floor, and ash would fly into our stalls. We couldn't do a thing because we couldn't possibly scold our customers.'

Dr Khor said that although being smoke-free ought to be the default lifestyle choice, 'we also need to take into account that there're still smokers out there, so it'll take time, but we're working towards that'.



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