Minimum legal age for smoking raised to 19 from Jan 1

Minimum legal age for smoking raised to 19 from Jan 1
PHOTO: Reuters

SINGAPORE - From Tuesday (Jan 1), smokers will have to be 19 years old before they can light up, up from the current age of 18, while Orchard Road will become almost entirely smoke-free.

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 Jan 1, 2019.

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

Tobacco use in Orchard Road will also be limited to about 40 designated smoking areas from Jan 1 following the removal of smoking corners in eateries. The ban had been slated for July but was pushed back to give businesses more time to prepare.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said that people found smoking in the newly prohibited public areas, such as along 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 .

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

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

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

In addition, their tobacco retail licence will be suspended for six months for the first offence and revoked for subsequent offences.

People who supply any tobacco products to a person below the minimum legal age are also committing an offence.

Those caught buying or acquiring tobacco for a person below the minimum legal age shall be liable upon conviction to a maximum fine of $2,500 for the first offence and $5,000 for subsequent offences.

People caught giving tobacco to a person below the minimum legal age shall be liable upon conviction to a maximum fine of $500 for the first offence and $1,000 for subsequent offences.

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

The MOH said that it also seeks the public's support to play their part and be responsible in not supplying tobacco to people below the the minimum legal age.

The ministry added that it remains committed to lowering smoking prevalence in Singapore through a comprehensive approach to discourage and reduce the use of tobacco products.

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 like tobacco taxation.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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