A ban on shisha smoking will take effect later this month. The import, distribution and sale of shisha will be prohibited, said Parliamentary Secretary for Health Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim in Parliament on Tuesday.
The ban will come under the new Prohibited Tobacco Products Regulations made under Section 15 of the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act.
"However, as a transitional measure, existing licensed tobacco importers and retailers who import or sell shisha tobacco will be allowed to continue importing and retailing shisha tobacco until 31 July 2016", added Dr Faishal.
This is to allow such importers and retailers ample time to deplete their stock and restructure their businesses away from the shisha business.
Dr Faishal was responding to questions by Dr Chia Shi-Lu, MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, who asked about the harmful effects of shisha, the prevalence of shisha use in Singapore and whether the Health Ministry will review its policies to strengthen the regulation of shisha use.
Dr Faishal said that shisha smoking is no less harmful to health as other forms of tobacco use.
He cited the World Health Organisation (WHO) that reported that a typical session of shisha smoking involves the inhalation of smoke that is equivalent to smoking 100 or more cigarettes. This exposes the shisha smoker to high levels of harmful smoke toxicants including tar, carbon monoxide and nicotine.
A research study in the US found higher levels of such toxicants in shisha smoke compared to cigarette smoke.
He also said that a recent WHO report on shisha smoking stated that the misconceptions, together with the social nature of shisha smoking, have contributed to an increase in shisha smoking globally, particularly among young people, which raises further concerns that shisha smoking may serve as a gateway to cigarette smoking.
In Singapore, the National Health Survey 2010 showed that 7.8 per cent of young adults between the ages of 18 to 29 smoked shisha at least occasionally, compared to 1 per cent among older adults.
The Student Health Survey found that the proportion of students who used alternative tobacco products, including shisha, had increased from 2 per cent in 2009 to 9 per cent in 2012.
In another study conducted by the Health Promotion Board (HPB), 3 in 5 (61.1 per cent) shisha smokers wrongly believed that smoking shisha was less harmful than cigarettes.
Therefore, "in view of the health risks associated with shisha smoking and to prevent the proliferation and entrenchment of shisha smoking in Singapore, my Ministry intends to prohibit the import, distribution and sale of shisha", concluded Dr Faishal.