The Straits Times recently carried a report about how the management agent of a condo at Upper Thomson Road called Meadows @ Pierce sent out a circular to all residents saying that residents should not smoke on their balconies and window areas. The circular cited a Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act (BMSMA) that prohibits owners from doing anything that can be a nuisance to others.

I am not sure whether this circular is on sound legal grounds, but this sounds to me like quite an overreach. As mentioned in the Straits Times report, lawyers said condominium management committees may not be able to enforce rules that are based on the clause cited by the management of Meadows @ Peirce.

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To be sure, smoking is clearly harmful to health, especially second-hand smoke. And that is why the list of prohibited areas has been increasing over the years. Smokers may grumble about this but generally this is reasonable. And this is mitigated in some way by designated smoking areas at Orchard Road and smoking rooms at some entertainment outlets.

Interestingly, NEA’s website includes a list of areas where smoking is generally allowed and this includes residential homes, beaches, surface carparks etc. If a resident is unable to smoke in his or her own home, balconies and window areas included, what other activities will be banned in the future? Surely, it is not defensible to dictate what a resident can or cannot do in their own home?

I think everybody on all sides, smokers and non-smokers, need to have some understanding and communication. Even as we undertake multi-pronged measures to discourage smoking, it does not mean that we should demonise smokers.

A little respectful dialogue between neighbours will go a long way towards bridging the gap between smokers and non-smokers.