Should Singapore shops be barred from displaying cigarettes?

SINGAPORE - Shops could soon be barred from displaying cigarette packs for sale. Instead, they may have to sell them from "under the counter".

The Health Ministry will seek the public's view on this dramatic measure, in a bid to curb the rising number of young smokers.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said on Tuesday the proportion of smokers among those aged 18 to 29 has grown to 16.3 per cent in 2010. It was 12.3 per cent six years ago.

The rise is faster than that of the general population.

Should the ban be introduced, customers have to ask for tobacco products. And vendors have to keep the products out of view.

A study by the Health Promotion Board last year of 1,300 people aged 18 to 69 found that almost half of young adult smokers bought tobacco when they see cigarettes on display. About one in five non-smokers felt the display "aroused curiosity in smoking".

Psychiatrist Munidasa Winslow, who runs a private practice at Novena Medical Centre, said the non-addicts "may smoke less if they are not stimulated to buy".

Safety coordinator Delvin Dane Valentine, who smoked for several years before he quit eight years ago, said displays used to remind him to check if he had "enough cigarettes to last the day".

"Taking away the display means taking the thought out of the mind," said Mr Valentine, 33, who advocates a smoke-free life under HPB's campaign efforts.

Changi General Hospital's Dr John Law, an associate consultant in respiratory medicine, said the planned move is unlikely to help chronic smokers as they will seek out venues with tobacco products.

Dr Lam Pin Min (Sengkang West), who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, suggested banning certain segments of the population, like younger citizens, from smoking. "We can do more to eradicate this harmful habit," he said.

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