Smokers in Singapore cutting down on cigarettes, but more people vaping: Survey, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Smokers in Singapore cutting down on cigarettes, but more people vaping: Survey

Smokers in Singapore have been cutting down on the number of cigarettes they light up each week, a survey has found, but this is happening amid an uptick in the use of products like e-cigarettes and vaporisers.

The survey by Milieu Insight produced a mixed bag of results.

The average number of cigarettes smoked per week fell from 72 sticks in the third quarter of 2021 to 56 in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Meanwhile, the usage of alternative products like e-cigarettes and vaporisers increased over the same period from 3.9 per cent to 5.2 per cent of the population.

“Since Q2 2022, the number of sticks smoked per week had declined gradually.

“This can also be attributed to the increase in proportion of occasional smokers as compared to regular smokers over this period,” said the market research company, which shared the results on March 26.

Milieu’s survey, conducted from Dec 16 to Dec 29 in 2023, found that the proportion of occasional smokers had increased by 1.2 percentage points to 3.2 per cent, from the third quarter of 2021 to the last quarter of 2023. There was also an increase in the number of former smokers over the same period.

This was amid a decline in the proportion of regular smokers in the population in Singapore, from 10.5 per cent in the third quarter of 2021 to 9.5 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2023.

The online survey of 6,000 Singapore citizens and permanent residents, aged between 21 and 69, found that alternative products like e-cigarettes were mostly used by regular or occasional smokers. The usage was highest among occasional smokers.

A similar increase in usage was also noted among non-smokers and former smokers.

Regular smokers were defined as those who smoked at least three sticks a day, and/or at least 10 sticks a week on average.

Devices like vaporisers and e-cigarettes have been outlawed in Singapore since 2018, and medical professionals have warned that users can suffer serious injuries including respiratory diseases.

The World Health Organisation, which has declared that e-cigarettes are harmful, has not found the product to be a legitimate cessation aid.

Respondents who smoked cigarettes and used alternative products said their top reason for using devices like e-cigarettes and vaporisers was to reduce cigarette consumption.

They also wanted to reduce second-hand smoke and try something different.

Respondents who used only alternative products said one of their top reasons for doing so was their preference for the taste of these products.

The uptick in the use of alternative products has prompted four trade associations, whose 780 members run coffee shops, eateries and provision shops in Singapore, to launch an anti-vaping campaign on March 26.

Members of the Foochow Coffee Restaurant and Bar Merchants Association, Kheng Keow Coffee Merchants Restaurant and Bar-Owners Association, Singapore Minimart Association, and Singapore Provision Shop Friendly Association will be putting up anti-vaping posters and table stickers on their premises.

Foochow Coffee Restaurant and Bar Merchants Association chairman Hong Poh Hin told The Straits Times that its members are supportive of the Government’s work to stamp out the use of e-cigarettes and vaporisers.

He said: “People forget that vaping is illegal here. We want to remind them not to do it because it’s unhealthy and there’s a big fine.”

Coffee shop staff will tell patrons to stop vaping, said Foochow Coffee Restaurant and Bar Merchants Association Singapore’s chairman Hong Poh Hin. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Aside from making the campaign’s collaterals visible, coffee shops and provision shop staff will approach patrons to tell them to stop vaping, he added. 

The Ministry of Health and the Health Sciences Authority had in December 2023 announced that they were stepping up enforcement and education efforts against vaping to prevent it from gaining a foothold in Singapore.

That same month, the authorities detected 1,656 vaporiser-related cases, with a sizeable number of users buying their devices online and from overseas suppliers.