Thursday 31 December 2015

Proposal to raise smoking age from 18 to 21

Public views sought on this and 3 other proposed new rules to discourage smoking
By Aw Cheng Wei and Ng Huiwen, The Straits Times, 30 Dec 2015

The health authorities are proposing to raise the minimum age of smoking from 18 to 21, and ban menthol and other flavoured cigarettes to step up their efforts to discourage people from lighting up.

The Health Promotion Board (HPB), along with the Health Ministry and Health Sciences Authority, yesterday began a 12-week public consultation to get views on these proposed rules.

The Health Promotion Board, together with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Health Sciences Authority (HSA), are...
Posted by Health Promotion Board, Singapore on Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Other measures being considered include having the same plain packaging for different brands, and putting bigger graphic health warnings on packets.

There are already restrictions on smoking here, which include curbs on advertising and a ban on lighting up in public places. Earlier this month, shops were also told they would have to stop displaying tobacco products in 2017.

Singapore already has one of the lowest smoking rates in the world, with the smoking rate falling from 18.3 per cent in 1992 to 13.3 in 2013. The aim is to cut this to 12 per cent by 2020, the HPB said yesterday.

The latest proposed curbs are based on international studies, among them those from American, British and Canadian institutions.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported in 2008 that people who do not start smoking before the age of 21 are unlikely to start. The authorities here are considering making it illegal for anyone below 21 to buy, be in possession of and use tobacco products.

Currently, health warnings carrying graphic images, such as of decaying teeth and the effects of cancer, must take up 50 per cent of the front and back of tobacco packaging.

The WHO, however, has recommended increasing this.

Flavoured cigarettes, which are popular among youth, can also mislead users into thinking that the sticks are not as harmful "as the flavours cover up the actual harshness of tobacco", according to the HPB.

Last year, an independent review commissioned by the British government showed that branding and packaging on tobacco products can make them more appealing, especially to the young.

Australia is so far the only country to have implemented standardised packaging. New Zealand, Ireland, France and Britain have announced their intention to introduce such packaging.

But tobacco firms have argued against such a move, claiming, for instance, that standardised packaging is easier to counterfeit and may spur an increase in illegal cigarettes.

Mr Jonathan Ng, regulatory affairs manager for tobacco firm Philip Morris Singapore, told The Straits Times that the proposed measures will "bring about unintended economic and social consequences due to illicit trade".

He added that the proposed packaging "violates international laws and trade agreements".

Dr Wong Seng Weng, medical director of The Cancer Centre, believes raising the minimum age will make a difference. "At 21, youth are less likely to be subjected to peer pressure and can better understand smoking's harmful effects," he said.

Ms Chua Shu Juan, 30, said she smokes only menthol cigarettes as she cannot stand the taste of regular ones. "If I cannot buy menthol cigarettes... I'll take the opportunity to try quitting," added the civil servant.

The public can give their views through HPB's website until March 29.

Four proposed tobacco curbs

The four proposed measures to regulate tobacco products are:

• Introducing standardised tobacco packaging, which will be plain without any promotional information.

• Enhancing graphic health warnings on the packaging.

• Banning the sale of flavoured tobacco products, which will affect the sale of tobacco products that have menthol, candy or fruit flavours.

• Increasing the minimum legal age from 18 to 21 years for buying, possessing and using tobacco products.

Hawaii is raising the legal smoking age to 21 for traditional and E-cigarettes on Jan. 1, becoming the first state in the nation to do so.
Posted by CBS News on Friday, January 1, 2016

* Youth favour proposed anti-smoking regulations
Almost all 50 young people polled, including smokers, in favour of at least one proposal
By Jasmine Osada and Aw Cheng Wei, The Sunday Times, 10 Jan 2016

The recently proposed anti-smoking regulations have been largely welcomed by young Singaporeans, with many believing the changes, if implemented, will deter them from picking up the habit.

The health authorities are looking at raising the legal smoking age from 18 to 21, banning the sale of flavoured tobacco products, using standard plain packaging and enhancing graphic health warnings. Already firm is the move to prevent the open display of cigarettes in shop shelves from next year.

Last month, the Health Promotion Board, along with the Ministry of Health and the Health Sciences Authority, began a 12-week public consultation exercise on the proposed rules.

Almost all 50 people, aged between 18 and 21, polled by The Sunday Times were in favour of at least one proposal. Half of them were smokers.

About three in four respondents said raising the legal smoking age to 21 could stop more people from starting the habit.

"I started smoking at 19 when a friend offered me a cigarette at a club. If the ban is implemented, I believe it will stop making cigarettes so easily available to young people," said polytechnic student Malcolm Teo, 20.

Full-time national serviceman (NSF) Gerald Koh, 19, said raising the legal age could also discourage NS recruits from taking up the habit. He said: "I started smoking last year during national service. Many of my friends did too. All of us faced some peer pressure to smoke.

"Should the higher age restriction be implemented, people who spot underage NSFs smoking in camp might be compelled to report them. This could discourage some people from trying smoking."

Some of those polled said raising the legal smoking age could potentially root out smoking from some educational institutions, as the students will be legally too young to light up. Ngee Ann Polytechnic student Jaclyn Low, 19, said: "My friends picked up smoking in polytechnic when they were 18 or 19.

"By raising the minimum smoking age to 21, most students in polytechnics won't be able to smoke any more."

Smoking is now banned in all polytechnic campuses here. Some schools, such as Temasek Polytechnic, also have in-campus health-promotion programmes that educate students on the hazards of smoking.

However, some of the proposed measures appear unpopular among young people, with the possible ban on flavoured cigarettes receiving the most flak. A polytechnic student, 19, who wanted to be known only as Mr Jeevan, said he started smoking two years ago in Secondary 5. "I don't understand why the Government wants to restrict the kind of cigarettes we can smoke," he said. "It feels like we are not the ones in charge of our own health."

Others said a ban could lead them to quit the habit.

Polytechnic student Lee Wee Kang, 20, said: "I will quit if they ban me from buying menthol cigarettes."

Several others polled were sceptical about the effectiveness of the proposed measures.

Nanyang Polytechnic student Lim Zhan Xuan, 21, said: "People can pick up smoking at any time. Even if the legal age limit is raised and cigarettes are packed in plain packaging, the measures would not stop them from lighting up if their mind is already set.

"Educating people about the risks of smoking would probably be more effective in the long run."

A university student, 21, who wanted to be known only as Ken, said he felt that the proposals came too soon.

"The Government had just banned the sale of shisha tobacco last year. For people like my friends and I who used to enjoy smoking shisha, that ban is still fresh in our minds. Proposing another four anti-smoking measures might deter young people from taking up smoking, but, for smokers like us, it feels like too much," he added.

Apart from young people, the proposed anti-smoking measures have received the thumbs up from parents and healthcare groups.

Dr K. Thomas Abraham, chief executive officer of Sata CommHealth, said: "Raising the legal smoking age from 18 to 21 can potentially make a great impact on whether a young person picks up smoking."

He added: "Youth aged 18 to 20 are more likely to experiment with a lot of things, including smoking, alcohol and drugs.

"But once they reach 21, they can reason better and understand the consequences better."

Mr Tay Hung Yong, manager of the Singapore Heart Foundation's Heart Wellness Centre, said: "The harmful effect of smoking is cumulative. The younger a person starts smoking, the higher the health risk."

Parents such as a 40-year-old office manager, who gave her name as Ms Dahlia, also support the proposals. The mother of an 18-year-old girl said: "The proposals should be put in place to stop youth from picking up smoking at a young age. Between 18 and 21, they are going through life changes and may be more susceptible to peer pressure to be 'cool'."


1970: Smoking is banned in all cinemas and on buses.

1971: Singapore becomes the first country in the world to ban tobacco advertising.

1986: The National Smoking Control Programme is launched by the Ministry of Health in a bid to make Singapore a nation of non-smokers.

1994: Smoking is banned in all air-conditioned private offices and factory floors.

2004: Gory images begin to be displayed on cigarette packs to discourage people from lighting up.

2012: The Blue Ribbon Movement is launched by the Health Promotion Board, letting organisations voluntarily declare their premises 100 per cent smoke-free.

2013: The National Environment Agency extends the smoking ban to cover common areas in all residential buildings, outdoor areas of hospitals and in a 5m radius around bus stops.

2014: Nee Soon South, a Yishun estate, becomes the first constituency to make all its public areas smoke-free.

Dec 9, 2015: The Ministry of Health announces that retailers will no longer be allowed to display tobacco products in shops from 2017.

REACH’s Tobacco Control Facebook Q&A has come to an end. Thank you all for participating! =======================Our...
Posted by REACHSingapore on Friday, March 4, 2016

San Francisco has raised its smoking age, aiming to help teenagers who are most vulnerable to addiction at a time when their brains are still developing.
Posted by CNN on Wednesday, March 2, 2016

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