Wednesday 17 June 2015

Alternative tobacco products to be banned from 15 December 2015

By Linette Lai, The Straits Times, 16 Jun 2015

SMOKELESS cigarettes are among alternative tobacco products - including those not yet available here - to be banned in Singapore from mid-December.

And from August next year, the Ministry of Health (MOH) will extend the ban to similar products that are already on sale here but not commonly used by smokers.

The ban means that people will no longer be able to import, distribute or sell such products in Singapore.

"Besides protecting the public from the health risks associated with the consumption of emerging tobacco products, the ban is aimed at ensuring that the targeted... products do not gain a foothold or become entrenched in the Singapore market," the ministry said in a statement yesterday.

It also hopes the ban will prevent these new products from leading non-smokers to take up smoking.

The ministry's pre-emptive moves follow last November's shisha ban, which drew flak from regular shisha smokers for being "draconian" and "extreme".

The first phase of the latest ban will start from Dec 15. It will cover any products containing tobacco or nicotine that may be applied topically, injected, or implanted into the body.

It will also include any tobacco- or nicotine-containing substances meant to be used in e-cigarettes or other electronic nicotine delivery systems.

This means that alternatives to traditional cigarettes, such as smokeless cigarettes and dissolvable tobacco or nicotine, will not be allowed.

None of these products is available in Singapore yet, said MOH in the statement.

The only exceptions to the ban are tobacco products, tobacco derivatives and medicinal products registered under the Medicines Act.

A second phase of the ban regulating alternative tobacco products that are already being used in Singapore will kick in from August next year.

This is to give retailers time to "adjust their operating models and deplete their existing stocks", said the ministry.

Products being banned under this phase include nasal and oral snuff, as well as gutkha, khaini and zarda.

The last three are flavoured tobaccos, often combined with other ingredients, that are sucked or chewed.

Dr K. Thomas Abraham, chief executive officer of non-profit organisation Sata CommHealth, welcomed the Government's move to ban emerging tobacco products.

"This prevents people from even contemplating bringing these products into Singapore," said Dr Abraham, who is a strong anti-smoking advocate.

"But the growing number of younger people picking up smoking is also worrying, and we should do more about that," he added.

Adverse health effects of e-cigarettes

MS SHEENA Chan Kim Sua suggested that e-cigarettes be allowed in Singapore, as e-cigarettes would allow smokers to continue their habit but save non-smokers from breathing in second-hand smoke ("E-cigarettes may be the solution"; Forum Online, May 30).

Electronic nicotine delivery systems (Ends) aerosol is not merely "water vapour", contrary to claims in the marketing for these products.

Adverse health effects for third parties exposed to it cannot be ruled out, because the use of e-cigarettes leads to the emission of fine and ultra-fine inhalable liquid particles, nicotine, and cancer-causing substances.

Such particles can accumulate indoors, and the particle size is comparable to that for conventional cigarettes.

Additionally, foetal and adolescent nicotine exposure has potential long-term adverse consequences for their brain development.

The Ministry of Health has prohibited the import, distribution and sale of Ends, including e-cigarettes, under the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act, as there is clear evidence of the health risks that vapour from Ends poses to users and bystanders, the latest being the World Health Organisation's report on Ends published last year.

While Ends are often marketed as smoking-cessation products, there is very limited and inconclusive evidence that they work as a method for quitting tobacco smoking.

Ends which claim to be smoking-cessation products should demonstrate their safety and effectiveness with the same level of scientific rigour required for approved nicotine-replacement therapies under the Medicines Act.

Singapore adopts a multi-pronged approach in tobacco control through a combination of legislation and health promotion initiatives.

While Singapore's smoking prevalence has stabilised in recent years, the availability of Ends can undermine the progress Singapore has made in tobacco control and in improving Singaporeans' health generally.

Ends may enhance the attractiveness of smoking itself and perpetuate the habit.

Ends may also result in children and non-smokers being initiated into cigarette smoking, while smokers may use both Ends and cigarettes.

Smokers seeking to quit smoking can opt to enrol themselves in a smoking-cessation programme, use nicotine replacement therapy or go cold turkey.

Smokers who would like to be supported in their efforts to quit smoking can call QuitLine on 1800-438-2000, or join the I Quit club at

Lim Bee Khim (Ms)
Corporate Communications
Ministry of Health
ST Forum, 16 Jun 2015

Singapore enhances tobacco control efforts with ban on emerging tobacco products
First Phase Of The Ban On Emerging Tobacco Products To Take Effect From 15 Dec 2015

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