25 March 2013

No Butts

In the week that I have been away from Singapore the government have changed and enacted new smoking-in-public laws. My normal outdoor smoking zone at the Marina Bay Financial Centre has been moved. It has been shifted about twenty meters west from where it once was.

There are now laws in place in Singapore that disallow smoking in any public area that is within 20 meters of a doorway. Any doorway. This is a bit of an ask in some areas as Singapore is a very densely populated city. It is the second most densely populated city in the world in fact. The most densely populated city in the world is Monte Carlo. The densest city in the world is the city of Washington in the United States of America. I use the term “dense” here in the context of ‘stupidity’ and I say this because in Washington American Politicians and Policy makers dictate orders to invade countries and blow things up. I think this is callous and cruel and is the epitome of stupidity.

The new smoking-in-public laws were enacted last week in Singapore by a rule of Parliament. 

While I was away.

The new smoking-in-public laws specify that smoking must be undertaken within zones that are designated by line markings and as I have already stated smoking is not allowed any closer than 20 meters from any doorway. I quite often repeat myself. I quite often repeat myself. The Singaporean Government have ordered that smoking outside of these designated lines is not permitted. 

It is illegal. 

When I went to this newly designated smoking area on my first day back in the office this morning I was surprised to see that my local smoking zone was marked out in the shape of a coffin. The coffin was stenciled in bold white paint and the outline was headed RIP. This is an acronym for “Rest in Peace”. 

My surprise at seeing the coffin-shaped smoking zone was matched equally by my delight and I had a quiet chuckle to myself. This is the first time that I have ever witnessed a sense of humor being demonstrated in a Singaporean government initiative. Dark and morbid as it may appear to some – I think it is a great first effort. Bravo Prime Minister Lee. 

Nice one. 

I applaud you. 

I noticed when I arrived this morning at the new smoking zone that the coffin was quite full. It was cramped and crowded. I observed this from where I was standing. I was standing in the shade of a banyan tree that is not far from the new smoking zone.

The new smoking zone is not sheltered or shaded. The Singaporean government has an expectation that in accordance with the new smoking-in-public laws, all smoking must now be undertaken under the blazing sun.

There were a couple of anxious looking locals guys hovering at the periphery of the coffin shaped smoking zone when I arrived there this morning. I noticed that they all had unlit cigarettes in their hands and they were waiting for a vacancy. They were waiting for their turn. 

In the coffin. 

Singaporeans are generally sticklers for rules and regulations. When I lit up my cigarette outside of the coffin area - from my shaded position under the banyan tree - a few of these waiters cast me more anxious glances. Some of these glances were also visibly disapproving. I shrugged at these glancers and waiters and I offered them a light - which they of course refused. I observed too that a female smoker had part of her left foot protruding over the coffin line. I pointed this out to her with a bit of a laugh and she promptly withdrew it - back into the coffin zone. She withdrew her foot unsmiling. Rebellious acts are not instinctive in Singapore and the act of rebellion and the challenge of Authority is stifled and crushed from a very young age.

I noticed that the ash tray depository for the new smoking-permitted area was actually positioned outside of the coffin zone markings. It is in fact beside me under the shade of the banyan tree. Smokers must therefore cross out into the prohibited zone in order to the deposit their butts into this receptacle - as dropping butts anywhere else is also illegal in Singapore and severe penalties apply for littering. Smokers must therefore endeavor to flick their butts from the confines of the coffin. Twenty meters is a long way to accurately flick a butt so I moved the ashtray to the head of the coffin. 

Here is a picture of the coffin smoking area and the ashtray that I moved.

No buts were made by any of the smokers.

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