MOH plans to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products by 2020
Packets to feature only brand names and larger health warnings
By 2020, all tobacco products sold here will have the same plain packaging, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has proposed.
No logos, colours, brand images and promotional information will be allowed, and the graphic health warnings will have to cover at least three-quarters of the package, up from half now.
This is the latest in a slew of recent measures aimed at reducing Singapore's smoking prevalence rate, which has hovered around 12 per cent to 14 per cent over the last decade.
Measures to reduce smoking have included banning shops from displaying tobacco products, raising tobacco taxes, expanding non-smoking areas, and raising the legal age to 21 over the next three years.
MOH said it will propose amendments to current laws early next year. If enacted, the new measure will come into force in 2020.
The ministry noted that more than 2,000 Singaporeans die prematurely from smoking-related diseases every year, and smoking conservatively costs the country at least $600 million annually in direct healthcare costs and lost productivity.
"Tobacco use is a major cause of ill health and death in Singapore... More needs to be done to achieve sustained declines in the overall smoking rates and, in particular, male smoking rate," it said in a press statement.
More than one in five men here smoke daily, higher than the rates in 13 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries.
Singapore will join seven countries that have implemented similar laws, including France, Britain and Australia, the first country to do so in 2012.
MOH said it engaged in extensive reviews and evaluations of local and international studies, research and evidence before deciding on the packaging law, which has been in the works since 2010.
It also conducted three public consultations and said it has carefully considered the possible costs and impact to the tobacco and related industries.
While not final, the proposed specifications include having the plain packaging in a standard dark brown colour, which Australia uses.
Brand and product names can be shown but must use a standard colour, font and be in a standard location. The packages cannot use noises, scents or features that might change after sale, such as those activated by heat or appear under fluorescent light.
MOH said the industry will be given sufficient notice of the specifications, which will apply to products including cigarettes, cigars, beedies and loose-leaf tobacco. There will be a transition period to allow old stock to be cleared and ease burden of implementation.