By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
The Government is holding talks with the six gaming operators concerning work arrangements for employees following the enactment of the designated smoking area law which comes into force in casinos in January 2013.
The Second Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly completed their deliberation of the draft tobacco control law yesterday and will meet with Government representatives again next Wednesday to sign the opinion report.
President of the standing committee Chan Chak Mo told reporters following the meeting that the Health Bureau (SSM) has asked the Labour Affairs Bureau to communicate with gaming operators to coordinate the new measures with the aim of protecting employees, especially those on the gaming floor like dealers and pit supervisors, after the casino’s are divided into smoking and non smoking areas.
Chan quoted SSM director Lei Chin Ion who said that the Government had suggested that businesses should consider approaches adopted by Singapore’s casinos to offer health insurance for their workers and arrange appropriate revolving rosters in smoking areas to minimise their exposure to second-hand smoke.
A number of lawmakers however questioned Government representatives regarding the allowance of outdoor smoking areas at higher education institutes.
Chan said the officials explained that students are over 18 years old and have the ‘ability to make their own judgement’, and also students and staff members normally spend long hours on campus, and it would prove ‘difficult’ for them if there is no allocated smoking area.
According to the draft law, a review of this arrangement will be carried out in three years time.
The committee president stressed that outdoor smoking areas are not mandatory and the decision to provide these areas lies with the relevant institute.
He also disclosed that a committee member, Ng Kuok Cheong, questioned the effective date of January 2012, indicating it should possibly be mandated sooner.
The Government representatives argued that a great deal of preparatory work should be undertaken in the first instance, including promotional campaigns, community education and training for tobacco control inspectors. They also considered that the timeframe will allow for the city to become more ‘psychologically prepared’ for the transition, and some may even quit smoking. Chan said the lawmakers accepted both explanations of the Government.
A more precise definition of beach areas was also provided by the Government, where smoking will be prohibited unless in specific designated areas. The latest draft of the law describes ‘beaches’ as those monitored by public administration entities; the Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau and the Maritime Administration.
According to Chan, the officials have also agreed to promulgate the requirements and standards for the establishment of smoking areas and smoking lounges in the form of administrative regulation in the coming months.
Smoking lounges are able to be set up at border checkpoints, the airport, cigar and accessories shops as well as tobacco manufacturing enterprises or their sales offices.