Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor has announced that during the debate in Parliament on the ministry's budget on Thursday (9 March) that the legal age for smoking and buying tobacco products in Singapore will be raised from 18 to 21 in the effort to reduce, if not eliminate, opportunities for the young to smoke.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) will table the proposed changes within a year and the change will be phased in over a few years after the law is passed and it will cover the sale of tobacco to under-21s, as well as the purchase, use and possession of tobacco products by them.
The Minister also noted that youths above 18 who are already smokers would not be affected by the new rules.
Health Promotion Board had conducted a public consultation on further tobacco control measures between December 2015 and March 2016. The Minister said that the feedback showed "considerable support" for raising the minimum legal age for smoking in Singapore.
The new measure which aims at shrinking the pool of legal buyers in a youth's social circle expects to limit their access to tobacco and reduce peer pressure.
Another thing that the Government is looking closely at is to standardise the packaging of the tobacco, as Australia, France and the United Kingdom have done.
This move gathered reaction from citizens. Some agreed with the move, while some do not.
Here are some of what those who agreed wrote:
- Shumei Lin wrote, "I am against smoking. I welcome this move. Having worked part time at a convenience store, I have seen enough "patterns" of how the underaged tried to smoke their way through to get their hands on a pack of cigarettes. Besides the increased age, please have a fixed price for all brands of cigarettes. Have ITE, poly, university do mandatory health screening. A lot to do. But if you want to stop youngsters from smoking, we really have to put this in place."
- Lim Kiam Peng wrote, "Good to prevent them from starting too early. Smoking does everyone no good. Your parents gave you a physical body and always wanted you to be healthy but you smoke and it really hurt them. But because they love you, they let you do what you want but that doesn't mean they support you."
- Lance Foo wrote, "Despite the weak sentencing of a well-planned paedophile.
I will still applaud this effort. Ban smoking. Ban, Ban Ban!!!!!"
- Missy Summer wrote, "I am against smoking. Hopefully, it will help the youth in our nation. Still, they will find ways to get hold of cigarettes."
- Cindy Kaur wrote, "This is very good news. Please increase the prices of cigarettes too, so that people will not waste their money on harmful things."
However, more citizens were against the new rule, saying that raising the age is not the right solution to fix the issue. Here are what they wrote in full:
- Oh Bock Thin wrote, "Seriously there are already many youths under 18 smoking secretly and you put the age of ban at 21? Okay, so will the government dare to check foreigners smoking for their age? Come on, let's get a realistic ban at any age for smoking won't work in fact many will go underground. Son, the daughter will hide in the corner to smoke. Best is to educate. I am a smoker by the way."
- Alan Lin wrote, "Cigarettes should be sold to and used only by those who have registered as addicts and dependent on it. Smoking is like slow suicide and should be discouraged and banned ultimately. To have a legal age for smoking is not a solution."
- Esther Lee wrote, "Wayang again! In my opinion, this tobacco control in Singapore is doing for show only. The government has no intention to take action against smoking. If they wish to stop it they would have done so like chewing gums. Everywhere, every corner of Singapore is flooded with smokers and cigarette butts. Regardless how many times and how long ago you have reported to NEA about the violations by smokers, you will still find smokers smoking in those prohibited places. Since this is so, why keep talking about the control?
- Kevin Loh wrote, "This is lame. If you really want to eradicate smoking, just prohibit anyone born after 2000 from buying or using any tobacco product. As it is, the taxes are just too lucrative to forgo totally."
- Siah Jin Kim wrote, "The Govt has a love-hate relationship with cigarettes. Can't bear to part with the lucrative tax while wanting people to stop smoking."
- Melissa Sabrina Benjamin wrote, "Topped selling those things or increase the prices. How about another $5! More!! Government oh..government! Enough aged to serve the country but still under ages to smoke."
- Ching Kim Hwa wrote, "Does not help with this revised law. Still, many people are smoking. Air pollution. Instead of increasing road tax for vehicles polluting, isn't it more effective to have smokers banned from smoking with immediate effect!!"
- Paul McGhee wrote, "Let's see how effective it is, will all cigarette vendors having to ask for proof of identity all the time. Not sure this is a viable law - just a knee-jerk reaction from ministers who have no connection with reality!!"
- Nicholas Tan wrote, "Hahahaha. How often is it being enforced? Really for show only.
There's a big pool of idiots who wants to contribute to the to tobacco tax. Surely the Govt want the money."
- Lim Fong Fee wrote, "Will the tough talk about having to increase this and increase that for the greater good yet when it comes to smoking no one has the guts to push for outright full BAN on smoking. Is the tax really worth the risk?"
- Desmond Loh wrote, "Authorities are introducing too many smoking laws that are hardly able to be enforced, thus rendering them useless. Void decks, parks and sheltered overhead bridges are still smoking havens for many."
- Michale Sim wrote, "The Most Fxxked Up Ruling. As if anyone can determine who are already smoking and who just decided to "feel good" to start smoking in this exclusive group of between 18 and 21."
- Boon Tan Lim wrote, "The ban should be left at 18. Young men are conscripted into the armed forces at 18. In a case of war they don't know they will be living the next day. To deny the little joy before they could be killed is not very wise. Too young to smoke and vote but not too young to be conscripted and die for the country."
- Yeo Khirn Hup wrote, "Interesting to see what will be the penalty for underage smokers. Throw them in jail like the abusers of illicit drugs?
On the other hand, if the penalty is too light, will the law be effective?"
- Larry Tan wrote, "Wow, the government's keyword for 2017 is INCREASES. When will the minimum wage and salaries for blue collar workers be increased?"
- Buck Wee Sim wrote, "Why don't the govt ban tobacco altogether just like chewing gum? But hor, government don't dare lar, a number of monies they collect from tobacco make them close their eyes."