Students caught for first-time vaping offences could face up to S$2,000 fine, according to MOH and HSA

About 250 vaping cases were referred to authorities by schools and institutes of higher learning in first quarter of 2024

Young man (left) and young woman using e-vaporiser or vape (Photos: Getty Images)
Young man (left) and young woman using e-vaporiser or vape (Photos: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — First-time offenders in schools and institutes of higher learning (IHLs) caught buying, using or possessing e-vaporisers or vapes can now be fined up to S$2,000.

From 1 January to 31 March this year, schools and IHLs have referred around 250 such cases to the Health Sciences Authority (HSA), said HSA and the Ministry of Health (MOH) in a joint press release on Tuesday (9 April).

The two authorities added that the Ministry of Education (MOE) will be notified when students are caught by HSA or other enforcement agencies outside school settings for vaping offences.

Enforcement in schools and IHLs

According to the authorities, IHLs have been reviewing their vaping sanctions, which include corrective work orders or mandatory community service. Students from autonomous universities caught possessing or peddling vapes may also have their hostel privileges revoked.

Schools and IHLs will continue their regular detection and enforcement efforts through internal reporting channels and campus patrols, said HSA and MOH.

"For students who are caught vaping, in addition to the penalty imposed by HSA, schools and IHLs will continue to mete out consequences through existing disciplinary frameworks, such as suspension or caning (for boys in schools)," said the authorities.

"Students caught vaping will also be placed on cessation support programmes where counsellors will guide them through their cessation journey."

Where appropriate, MOE will continue to support enforcement efforts at IHLs, which include joint enforcement operations by HSA and autonomous universities.

Educational materials and preventive programmes

In addition to enforcement efforts, schools and IHLs are working with the Health Promotion Board (HPB) to step up on anti-vaping messages in educational materials and preventive programmes.

These programmes include QuitLine, a tele-counselling service, as well as on-site counselling by Student Health Advisors. Through these sessions, youths learn about the harmful effects of smoking and vaping, and pick up ways to quit and manage withdrawal symptoms.

In 2023, about 2,350 youths participated in these programmes, of which 38 per cent have either reduced or quit smoking and/or vaping after one month after counselling.

"MOE, together with HPB, has communicated to staff and students on Singapore’s firmer stance against vaping and step-up in enforcement. Parents have also been informed," said the authorities.

Over 2,200 people caught in first quarter of 2024

From 1 January to 31 March, more than 2,200 people have been caught for possession or use of e-vaporisers. Of them, 1,950 people were caught in public areas, such as the central business district, entertainment outlets and around shopping centres, said the authorities.

HSA also disrupted several illegal vape distribution networks, and seized more than S$7 million worth of vapes and components in total in the first quarter of 2024.

Joint operations were also conducted by HSA and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) at Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints and Changi Airport. To date, 40 e-vaporiser-related cases were detected at the borders: 10 people were caught smuggling e-vaporisers into Singapore, while 30 were found to be in possession of e-vaporisers.

60 per cent increase in possession or use last year

In 2023, 7,838 people were caught for possession or use of e-vaporisers, a 60 per cent increase from 4,916 in 2022. HSA and MOH said the rise in cases were part of an intensified multi-agency effort by the ministry and partner government agencies to enforce against the use of e-vaporisers.

More than 3,000 e-vaporiser-related online listings were also removed last year, a "significant increase" from 2,600 online listings removed in 2022. HSA and MOH have notified 16 social media services and e-commerce platforms on 11 March to remind them that hosting vaping-related content is against the law.

"The onus is on social media services and e-commerce platforms to exercise due diligence and proactively remove vaping-related content. Enforcement actions may be taken against the platforms that are found with inadequate processes to detect and remove vaping-related contents," the authorities said.

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