To prevent young people from getting addicted to smoking, and concerned about their health, a bill raising the legal age of smoking from 18 to 21 years was introduced in the Singaporean Parliament. The bill has been tabled to change rules and it will be gradually phased in over a few years.
Gan Kim Yong, Health Minister through the explanatory note accompanying the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Bill, said, “The move has been aimed at reducing, with a view to ultimately eliminating, the opportunities for the young to be tempted and take up smoking before attaining 21 years of age.”
Even during the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) Committee of Supply Debate this year, Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State had reiterated that Singapore will join places such as New York and California in raising the legal age for smoking from 18 to 21.
However, MOH has said, “Youths above 18 who are already smoking will not be affected by the change.”
Singapore has been mulling over raising the legal age for the last few years as there is also a World Health Organisation report citing that those who do not start smoking before 21 are unlikely to do pick up the habit.
Smoking particularly among youths is a cause of concern in Singapore. Smoking rates among young men are still high while the smoking rates of young women is rising. However, the prevalence of smoking in Singapore has improved if we take into account a long period perspective- from 18.3 per cent in 1992 to 13.3 per cent in 2013.
“Studies have shown that younger the youths are when they first try smoking, the greater the levels of nicotine addiction, intensity of smoking and likelihood of continuing to smoke into adulthood”, said MOH.
There are various clauses in the bill including a clause making it illegal to own imitation tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes. If the law is passed, owners of e-cigarettes can be fined up to SGD2,000. Currently, only importing, distributing, selling or offering to sell such products is prohibited.
The Bill for raising the legal age of smoking from 18 to 21 years will be debated at a future Parliament sitting.