Singapore - new measures to discourage smoking among the young..

August 3, 2009 - The Health Promotion Board (HPB) and the Health Sciences Authority have drawn up proposed measures to discourage smoking and tobacco addiction among the younger set.

These range from heavier fines for underage smoking and giving the Health Minister the clout to ban the sale of certain tobacco products, to barring some places from selling them, as well as lowering permitted tar and nicotine levels.

Four weeks have been set aside for public consultation, beginning today. The trigger for these stricter regulations lies in statistics: The number of smokers aged between 18 and 29 jumped 40 per cent in three years from 2004; significantly, one in four males in this age bracket now smoke.

Nationally, smokers made up 13.6 per cent of the population in 2007, up from 12.6 per cent in 2004. More than 65 retailers were caught for selling to customers under 18 last year, up from 57 the previous year, an indication of the growing problem.

For starters, it has been proposed that cigarettes sold here will have not more than 10mg of tar and 1mg of nicotine, down from the current 15mg and 1.3mg. This change will hit many brands on the market.

Other forms of tobacco and smoking have not escaped the attention of the authorities.
For example, the Middle Eastern shisha, a water pipe through which tobacco is smoked, is catching on among the young for the misleadingly fruity flavors available.

Nicotine substitutes with consumer appeal and which are potentially addictive such as snus and snuff have also showed up on the radar. The HPB's idea is to put these products beyond the reach of experimenting youths so that they do not become addicted to nicotine. The Health Minister will be given the power to stop the sale of these products and also of tobacco derivatives like tobacco gel and candy.

References: Curbing younger smokers by Salma Khalik , HEALTH CORRESPONDENT, The Straits Times, 8/3/2009; Health officials seek public views on proposed amendments to Smoking Act by Channel NewsAsia, 8/2/2009.

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