No, NEA did not install fancy new cameras to detect smokers smoking inside their houses

In the wake of enhanced measures enacted by the government against smoking — and Members of Parliament raising the possibility of outlawing smoking in private homes — it’s not surprising that smokers are feeling suffocated by the paranoia of getting into trouble for lighting up and taking puffs on their already highly taxed cigarettes.

It shouldn’t be surprising either that unverified claims such as these have gone viral on social media in recent days.


Twitter screengrab
Facebook screengrab
Twitter screengrab

The claims that the National Environment Agency (NEA) is already cracking down on smokers in their own houses are, of course, bullcrap. Smoking is still allowed in residential homes, and no amount of complaints by neighbors with sensitive noses can make the authorities outrightly stop smokers from doing so in their private abode.

Photo: NEA website screengrab

What the NEA does have the power to crack down on is high-rise littering, and smokers who flick their butts out their windows are perfectly liable to be fined.

Now, about those bulky electronic thingamajigs installed by the NEA at residential blocks. Those aren’t newfangled cigarette smoke detectors. The devices are actually surveillance cameras that are meant to catch high-rise litterbugs in action. The initiative started as far back as 2012 in a drastic, last-ditch attempt in to reduce the massive amount of litterbug reports — according to NEA, feedback about high-rise littering rose nearly 18 percent from 4,449 cases in 2010 to 5,232 in 2011. Educational efforts had failed, said the NEA, and as such, the agency spent $1.4 million to install surveillance cameras in 40 areas found with persistent high-rise littering across the country.

Nonetheless, it is true that the government is exploring options to use thermal cameras to capture smokers who smoke in prohibited places. NEA has already called out for contractors who can assist them with coming up with tech that can capture smokers in the act of lighting up in places where they’re not supposed to, like lift lobbies, common corridors, compounds of educational institutions, and more.

In a Channel NewsAsia report, an expert also revealed that there’s a possibility of thermal cameras having facial recognition capabilities with access to a national database. Now that will be scary in the time to come, but for now, ignore the claims that the NEA is already starting to hunt down smokers in their own homes.

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