Health ministry raises legal age to smoke, buy cigarettes to 20

PHOTO: Straits Times File

Those aged 19 and under are no longer able to purchase cigarettes.

Starting yesterday, the Minimum Legal Age (MLA) for the purchase, use, possession, sale and supply of tobacco products will be raised from 19 to 20 years old, said the Ministry of Health (MOH).

The MLA will subsequently be raised to 21 years old in 2021.

MOH said in a press release yesterday: "Raising the MLA aims to deter youths from picking up smoking by limiting the access to tobacco products, and is part of the Ministry's continued efforts to denormalise smoking and reduce smoking prevalence among youths."

This change in the MLA was debated and passed in Parliament on Nov 7, 2017, as part of the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) (Amendment) Bill 2017.

The MLA was raised from 18 to 19 years old on Jan 1, 2018.

NEW WARNING NOTICES

The Ministry said that the tobacco industry, including retailers, importers and wholesalers, have been reminded of the changes.

New warning notices have also been distributed to retailers for display at their outlets, added MOH.

Starting Jan 1, retailers who sell any tobacco products to a person below the legal age shall be liable upon conviction to a maximum fine of $5,000 for the first offence and $10,000 for subsequent offences.

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In addition, the retailer's tobacco retail licence will be suspended for the first offence and revoked for subsequent offences.

Underage smokers who are caught using, buying or having in their possession tobacco products are liable on conviction to a fine of up to $300.

The MOH said that members of the public can report errant retailers to the Health Sciences Authority's Tobacco Regulation Branch at 6684 2037/2036 during office hours.

This article was first published in The New Paper. Permission required for reproduction.