Singapore: Smoking allowed - but only with five meters distance - Singapore KISS

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Singapore: Smoking allowed - but only with five meters distance

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Singapore is a beautiful city - but it is also a city of fines. A carelessly thrown cigarette on the street alone can cost up to 400 SGD. And yet smokers find their niches.

Smokers on the move have an eye for detail. No matter how convoluted the paths at large airports may be, they always discover the universally understood sign in the form of a cigarette.

With determination, the exiles make their way into the foggy glass boxes, which can be more unifying than many a UN summit. Cultural and linguistic boundaries quickly go up in smoke when you urgently need a light after a ten-hour flight.

In the arrivals area of airports, however, smokers often find themselves looking in vain for one of the last refuges of their vice. The tormented smoker's heart leaps with joy when a large sign visible from the gangway points the way to the "Smoking Area. When this sight appears at Singapore Airport, of all places, a touch of confusion mixes with the enthusiasm.

One butt can cost smokers 400 SGD in Singapore

Although Singapore is no longer regarded as a hyper-sterile clearing in the rainforest, at least since the strict ban on chewing gum was relaxed in 2004, the image of a supposed paradise for militant non-smokers has persisted. The "fine city" still lives up to its ambiguous epithet: Singapore is a beautiful city - and a city of punishments, especially for smoking visitors.


Each person is allowed just 17 cigarettes when entering the country, otherwise they face a fine of ten times the price at which the respective brand is sold in Singapore. Cigarettes in Singapore are expensive, with a pack costing just under seven SGD. Young Singaporeans especially students who have not yet generated an income often save money on cigarettes by using electric rolling machine to make cigarettes at home.

The penalties for carelessly thrown cigarettes on the street are similarly brutal: up to 400 SGD per piece or public cleaning service await the smoking sinner. Once all this has been recapitulated during the first cigarette on Singaporean soil, it's off to passport control, then baggage claim and finally straight into the humid tropical air.

Don't ash on the ground!

The remaining 16 nicotine-containing souvenirs are of little interest to the customs officials posted in front of the exit. The cab is now roaring along the much-vaunted clean streets of Singapore when, looking out of the window, a spectacular discovery raises new questions: a young man strolls by outside - smoking!

Are we about to witness a crime? What will he do with the smoking remains of his sinful indulgence?

An answer to the last question is provided by the new traveler and smoker acquaintance of retirement age, who is also taking part in the sightseeing tour that is now about to begin. In the shade of the waiting tour buses, the sprightly Australian pulls a sealable mini ashtray out of her handbag. "I've done my research," she explains solemnly, "as long as you keep five meters away from the buildings and don't ash on the ground, you're not committing a crime."

Her husband nevertheless keeps looking around as he furtively pulls on his cigarette. Then he has to laugh: "It makes you feel like you're 17 again when you're over 70. I always say travel keeps you young."

Thrills like the first secret cigarette?

Three hours, a city tour and two smoking breaks later, this special kind of rejuvenation cure is over. Because there are official smoking zones not only right next to the city's landmark, the Merlion statue, but also in front of the office towers in the financial district, the shopping malls on Orchard Road and on most restaurant terraces. The thrill of your first secret cigarette? Not a chance.

At Marina Bay, there are even specially designed pavilions with sound systems for smokers. People from all over the world stand here together in harmony, while white smoke is lost in front of the glittering skyline and "What A Wonderful World" plays in the background.

Those who find this Singaporean idyll too confusing can rest assured that just a few meters further on, a sign reminds them of what awaits those who indulge in their vices beyond the designated areas: a fine of around 660 SGD. At least. Singapore is a fine city.

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