The Minimum Legal Age (MLA) for the purchase, use, possession, sale and supply of tobacco products will be raised from 18 to 19 years old starting from 1 January 2019.
The MLA will subsequently be raised to 20 years old on 1 January 2020 and to 21 years old on 1 January 2021, the Ministry Of Health (MOH) earlier noted in a press release on Friday (28 November).
The ministry said that raising the MLA is part of its ongoing efforts to enhance public health and reduce smoking prevalence in Singapore, which aims to prevent youth from picking up smoking by limiting access to tobacco products, and to further de-normalise smoking particularly for those below 21.
The proposal to raise the MLA was debated and passed in Parliament on 7 November 2017 as part of the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) (Amendment) Bill 2017, following public consultations conducted from December 2015 to March 2016, and from 13 June to 10 July 2017.
The tobacco industry (including retailers, importers and wholesalers) were informed of the changes from January 2018. HSA’s enforcement officers have also proactively reminded retailers of the change in MLA since October 2018 during their routine tobacco retail outlet inspections.
The ministry stressed that retailers who contravene the law and sell any tobacco products to a person below the MLA shall be liable upon conviction to a maximum fine of $5,000 for the first offence and $10,000 for subsequent offences. In addition, the tobacco retail licence will be suspended for the first offence and revoked for subsequent offences.
Besides retailers, the ministry noted that persons who supply any tobacco products to a person below the MLA are also committing an offence.
Persons caught buying or acquiring tobacco for a person below the MLA shall be liable upon conviction to a maximum fine of $2,500 for the first offence and $5,000 for subsequent offences. Persons caught giving or furnishing tobacco to a person below the MLA shall be liable upon conviction to a maximum fine of $500 for the first offence and $1,000 for subsequent offences. Underage smokers who are caught for using, buying or having in their possession tobacco products are liable on conviction to a fine of up to $300.
Members of the public can report errant retailers to the Health Sciences Authority’s (HSA) Tobacco Regulation Branch at 6684 2037 or 6684 2036 during office hours.
Those who agreed stated that it is a good move to prevent youth from starting to smoke too early, saying that smoking is very harmful.
While those who did not agree stated that raising the age is not the right solution to fix the issue and that it is a lifestyle choice. They stated that the youths will still be smoking underground and the possibility of the youths fueling sale of illegal cigarettes is apparent, given the never-ending trafficking due to the existing demand of smokers for cheap cigarettes.
The country also made another move to step up the Government’s efforts to create a tobacco-free Singapore by using standardised packagings with enlarged graphic health warnings on all tobacco products sold in Singapore by 2020.