Singapore's Senior Minister of State for Health, Amy Khor, announce in Parliament on Thursday that the minimum legal age for the sale of tobacco products will be raised from 18 to 21 years. The change will be phased in over the next few years. "We want to protect our young from the harms of tobacco, and lay the foundation for good health," she said.
According to Dr. Khor, 45 per cent of smokers become regular ones between the ages of 18 and 20 years in Singapore. Research shows that adolescent brains have a heightened sensitivity to the effects of nicotine. Dr. Khor cited a World Health Organization (WHO) report and said that people who do not start smoking before the age of 21 "are unlikely to ever begin".
In between December 2015 and March 2016, the Health Promotion Board had conducted a public consultation on further tobacco control measures. Dr. Kho said the feedback from the consultation showed "considerable support" for raising the minimum legal age for smoking in Singapore.
The ministry also plans to propose legislative changes to Parliament within a year to raise the minimum legal age to sell tobacco products to minors from 18 to 21 years. Dr. Khor said that the step will be taken to de-normalise tobacco use and reduce the number of youths from picking up the habit. The change will be phased in over a few years.
The minister also provided an update on standardising tobacco packaging. She said the ministry has closely studied the experience and success rate of Australia, France, the United Kingdom and a few other countries that had already implemented this.
"(We) see significant value in moving in this direction, so as to reduce the appeal of tobacco products, particularly to youths, and raise the visibility and effectiveness of health warnings," she said.
Dr. Khor further added: "We will conduct a further public consultation on standardised packaging this year to seek additional and more detailed views on possible standardised packaging measures."