Ministry of Health will raise minimum age for sale of tobacco products to 21

This will be implemented over the next few years.

By Jeanette Tan | March 9, 2017

The government will be raising the minimum age for the purchase, use and possession of tobacco products to 21.

This change, announced by Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor during the ongoing Committee of Supply debate, will be implemented over the coming years, although specifics are not yet available on when and how this will be phased.

In explaining the ministry’s decision, Khor said in her speech that in Singapore, 45 per cent of smokers become regular smokers between the ages of 18 and 20. She also cited a World Health Organisation report that people who do not start smoking before the age of 21 are “unlikely to ever begin”.

Additionally, she says, findings from Needham, Massachusetts, the first town in the U.S. to implement the increased minimum age, are promising, with youth smoking rates falling more rapidly there than in neighbouring areas.

This new minimum age rule has also been implemented in New York City, the states of Hawaii and California, apart from more than 210 others, she added.

The move has public buy-in too, Khor said — feedback from public consultation done by MOH between December 2015 and March 2016 showed many were in favour of increasing the minimum legal age.

“MOH will take further steps to reduce, if not eliminate the opportunities for our young to be tempted and take up smoking before 21,” said Khor. “We will propose legislative changes to Parliament within a year to raise the Minimum Legal Age for sale of tobacco products to minors, from 18 to 21 years. The change will be phased over a few years.”

The ministry is also looking into conducting public consultation on standardising tobacco packaging, a move that has been done in Australia, France and the UK.

Top photo: Getty Images / AFP

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About Jeanette Tan

Jeanette takes pride in her ability to sing the complete lyrics to Hakuna Matata and a host of other Disney songs. She holds out hope to someday be talent-spotted to do voice-overs for documentaries, lifts and automated telephone answering systems.

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