Philip Morris Singapore said the forthcoming ban on the display of tobacco products at retail outlets will have no impact on the smoking rate in Singapore.
The comment by the leading tobacco company in Singapore was in response to the announcement by the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Wednesday (9 December) that retailers selling tobacco products will no longer be allowed to display such items near the cashier counters of their outlets from 2017.
The ban on point of sale display (POSD) will take place after the Tobacco (Control of Advertisement and Sale) Act has been amended, MOH said. The amendments will be tabled in parliament, whose opening session is in January 2016.
“The POSD ban aims to protect the health of Singaporeans. By removing tobacco products from the public’s line of sight, we want to prevent our youth from picking up the smoking habit, and to help individuals who are trying to quit smoking,” said MOH in a press release.
In an email statement to Yahoo Singapore, Philip Morris Singapore said based on its experience in working with countries that have similar regulations, there has been no clear evidence of a decrease in the smoking rate of these countries after such a ban took effect.
“From the retail perspective, this will bring significant operation burdens to retailers. From our perspective, it will stiffen competition…when all products are hidden, how can you compete?” said a Philip Morris spokesperson, who declined to be named.
“You can’t scientifically demonstrate with evidence that it (POSD ban) will reduce smoking rate,” he added.
Iceland, Canada and Thailand are some of the countries in the world that have imposed a ban on POSD.
PMI is one of the leading tobacco companies in Singapore, owning brands such as Marlboro and L&M, according to Euromonitor International.
Retailers will be given a 12 months grace period after the ban has been gazetted, to give them “time to effect the changes and smoothen the transition process” so that they can comply with the rules, MOH said.
“Support from the community and businesses is crucial in our fight against tobacco use. Retailers can help create the right environment for Singaporeans who are trying to stay away from cigarettes,” it added.
On Wednesday morning, Senior Minister of State for Health and Environment and Water Resources, Amy Khor, attended a meeting with tobacco retailers to inform them of the implementation of the new guidelines.
The Health Promotion Board (HPB) has also prepared a brochure to assist tobacco retailers in implementing the ban.
Since 2013, MOH, HPB and Health Sciences Authority (HSA) have had a total of 14 dialogue sessions on the POSD ban.