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Systems and policies to reduce secondhand smoke in multiunit housing in Singapore: a qualitative study

Abstract

Background Multiunit housing residents are often exposed to neighbours’ secondhand smoke (SHS). Little is known on the current systems available to protect residents in places not covered by a residential smoking ban, or what constitutes an appropriate policy approach. This study explores relevant systems and policies in Singapore, a densely populated city-state where the vast majority live in multiunit housing and discussions on regulating smoking in homes are ongoing.

Methods In-depth interviews with 18 key informants involved in thought leadership, advocacy, policy or handling SHS complaints, and 14 smokers and 16 non-smokers exposed to SHS at home.

Results The current system to address neighbours’ SHS comprises three steps: moral suasion, mediation and legal dispute. Moral suasion and mediation are often ineffective as they depend on smokers to willingly restrict their smoking habits. Legal dispute can yield a court order to stop smoking inside the home, but the process places a high evidence burden on complainants. While setting up designated smoking points or running social responsibility campaigns may help to create no-smoking norms, more intractable cases will likely require regulation, a polarising approach which raises concerns about privacy.

Conclusions Without regulations to limit SHS in multiunit housing, current systems are limited in their enforceability as they treat SHS as a neighbourly nuisance rather than a public health threat.

  • environment
  • litigation
  • prevention
  • public policy
  • secondhand smoke

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