The Ministry of Health (MOH) will propose legislative changes within a year to raise the minimum legal age (MLA) for the sale of tobacco products from 18 to 21 years, said Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor on Thursday (9 March).
This change will be phased in over a few years, she said in Parliament during the ministry’s Committee of Supply debate.
“We want to protect our young from the harms of tobacco and lay the foundations for good health. In Singapore, nearly half – or 45 per cent – of smokers become regular smokers between the ages of 18 and 21 years”, said Khor.
According to a World Health Organisation report cited by Khor, those who do not start smoking before the age of 21 are unlikely to ever begin.
Feedback from a public consultation exercise conducted by the Health Promotion Board (HPB) between December 2015 and March 2016 indicate that there is strong public support for raising the MLA for smoking here to 21.
In an effort to help smokers quit, the HPB will expand the outreach of its “I Quit” programme through roadshows at various workplaces and community venues this year.
MOH will also be taking more steps towards standardising the packaging for tobacco products sold here.
Citing the experiences of Australia, France and the UK in implementing standardised packaging, Khor said there is “significant value” in having Singapore move in the same direction, so as to reduce the appeal of tobacco products – particularly to the young – while raising the visibility of health warnings.
She added that MOH will conduct a further public consultation on standardised packaging this year to seek more detailed views on the possible measures.
“We will carefully review relevant considerations, including public health, intellectual property and international law perspectives, and ensure that any measures taken are consistent with domestic law and our international obligations,” said Khor.