Tougher laws for smokers in Singapore from Jan 1, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Tougher laws for smokers in Singapore from Jan 1

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Minimum legal age for smoking will rise to 19 and Orchard Road will become a smoke-free zone from tomorrow

From tomorrow, smokers must be at least 19 years old before they can light up, up from the current age of 18. Orchard Road will also become a smoke-free zone.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) has issued a reminder that the minimum legal age for the purchase, use, possession, sale and supply of tobacco products will be raised from 18 to 19 years old from tomorrow.

After this, it will be raised progressively every January until 2021, when smokers will have to be at least 21.

Tobacco use in Orchard Road will be limited to about 40 designated smoking areas from tomorrow after the removal of smoking corners in eateries. The ban had been slated for July but was postponed to give businesses more time to prepare.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said that those found smoking in the newly prohibited public areas, such as on the streets and pavements or at open areas, will receive verbal warnings from its enforcement officers and volunteers during the first three months of the ban.

Enforcement action will be taken from April 1.

Surveillance cameras will also be deployed selectively to monitor certain areas within the no-smoking zone, based on feedback, NEA added.

"Raising the minimum legal age is part of the Ministry of Health's ongoing efforts to enhance public health and reduce smoking prevalence in Singapore," MOH said.

"It aims to prevent youth from picking up smoking by limiting access to tobacco products, and to further de-normalise smoking, particularly for those below 21."

The proposal to raise the minimum legal age was debated and passed in Parliament on Nov 7 last year as part of the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) (Amendment) Bill 2017.

The move followed public consultations conducted from December 2015 to March 2016, and from June 13 to July 10 last year.

The tobacco industry was informed of the changes from January this year.

Retailers convicted of selling tobacco products to persons below the minimum legal age can be fined up to $5,000 for the first offence and $10,000 for subsequent offences.

Their tobacco retail licences will be suspended for six months for the first offence and revoked for subsequent offences.

Those who supply tobacco products to underage persons are also committing an offence.

Anyone convicted of buying or acquiring tobacco for an underage person can be fined up to $2,500 for the first offence and $5,000 for subsequent offences.

Anyone convicted of giving tobacco to an underage person can be fined up to $500 for the first offence and $1,000 for subsequent offences.

Underage persons convicted of using, buying or possessing tobacco products can be fined up to $300.

Members of the public can report errant retailers to the Health Sciences Authority's Tobacco Regulation Branch on 6684-2037 or 6684-2036 during office hours.

MOH is also seeking the public's support to not supply tobacco to underage smokers.

The ministry said that it remains committed to a comprehensive approach to discourage and reduce the use of tobacco products in Singapore .

This includes public education on the harms of tobacco use, efforts to encourage tobacco-free living, legislative restrictions on tobacco advertising and promotion, and fiscal policies such as tobacco taxation.