Time for a ban on cigarette sales?

SINGAPORE - The Australian government should be lauded for mandating that cigarettes be sold in plain olive-coloured packaging printed with health warnings and big pictures of various diseased organs ("Australia's 'disgusting' cigarette packs a big headache for vendors"; Monday).

The brand names are relegated to a standard small print on the boxes and the billboard effects of the colourful and shiny boxes are gone.

Will the Singapore Government be following suit?

Currently, the duties on the sale of cigarettes are high, but not prohibitive. The pictures of the diseased organs on the boxes have been there for years and seem to have lost their effect.

Smoking bans are not strictly nor effectively enforced as enforcement was and is expected to be difficult. Anti-smoking campaigns have not been too successful either.

Health education seems to have fallen on deaf ears. This is reflected in the National Health Survey conducted by the Ministry of Health in 2010. It indicated an increase in the percentage of Singaporeans smoking cigarettes, with 14.3 per cent of adults being smokers in 2010 compared to 12.6 per cent in 2004 ("Smoking: Tougher measures needed" by Dr K. Thomas Abraham; last Saturday).

Even more worrisome is the prevalence of smoking among young Singaporeans aged 18 to 29, which had jumped to 16.3 per cent, from 12.3 per cent in 2004. This represents a 33 per cent increase in just six years.

Many smokers I spoke to find it hard to quit. One common remark by smokers is: "If the Government bans the sale of cigarettes, I will quit smoking."

The Government had successfully banned the sale of chewing gum in Singapore as the indiscriminate disposal of the gum made it a public nuisance.

Smoking is a health hazard and is surely of greater concern.

How about banning the sale of cigarettes altogether? It may seem draconian, but it will save a whole new generation from developing respiratory problems.

Lo Cher Kuan

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