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The Straits Times

Broaden Conversation On Smoking Ban

Lung surgeon Koong Heng Nung, for example, proposed banning the sale of cigarettes to those born after a certain date” (Some Call For Ban On Smoking At Coffee Shops, Amir Hussain).

Of the suggestions to curb smoking in Singapore – such as the designation of smoking points or the extension of prohibitions to include “home balconies and at their windows” (ST, Apr. 19) – the proposal for a ban of sales to those born after a certain date, while radical, appears the most comprehensive. For some time the “Towards Tobacco-Free Singapore” movement has campaigned to deny Singaporeans born after 2000 access to tobacco, and since the health and social benefits associated with smoking are far and few between it would therefore make sense for such implementation. In this vein more could be involved to understand the implication of this policy, to contest its merits, or to even highlight alternatives.

Through its Tobacco Free Initiative the World Health Organisation has sought to ban the advertisement and promotion of tobacco around the world. Plain tobacco packaging is not found in Singapore, though health warnings and gruesome pictures adorn cigarette packages here. It has also taken the National Environment Agency some time to consider the idea of demarcated smoking zones, wherein smokers are clear about where they can light up (instead of being confused by the many bans or extensions), and non-smokers can steer clear if they wish to avoid the second-hand smoke.

Yet even with these short-term measures the aforementioned ban will create the biggest impact. Some may be concerned with loss of tax revenues, since the excise duties from tobacco are almost equivalent to the duties from both petroleum products and liquors, ranging between S$960 million and S$1.1 billion in the past three years, thereby hurting businesses. It should nevertheless be noted that health and social costs – which are notoriously difficult to aggregate and quantify – have not been considered, and preventing Singaporeans born after 2000 from getting their hands on tobacco means present smokers will hardly be affected, other legislation notwithstanding. And in the wider context we will lead the way by sending the message that we care for the well-being of our people.

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A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting. Carlos Castaneda.

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