May 31, 2013

    Push to raise legal smoking age to 21

    A VOLUNTARY non-profit organisation is pushing for new legislation to raise the legal smoking age from 18 to 21.

    Sata CommHealth, formerly known as the Singapore Anti-Tuberculosis Association, is believed to have made the proposal to government agencies early this month.

    Without elaborating on its efforts, its chief executive, Dr K. Thomas Abraham, told My Paper yesterday: "It's a work in progress. Hopefully, we will see some results in a month or two."

    He cited the increasing number of young smokers, especially female smokers, as one of the reasons the organisation is seeking to change the law.

    The proportion of smokers among young Singaporeans aged 18 to 29 jumped to 16.3 per cent in 2010, from 12.3 per cent in 2004, according to the 2010 National Health Survey.

    Dr Abraham said that if Singapore wants the number of smokers to go down to 10 per cent by 2020, "we need to take bold measures today".

    While he was unable to provide figures on female smokers, he said that more women here are picking up the bad habit.

    Today's young smokers will become "a big problem" in the future, if we don't stop the trend now, he said.

    Cities in the United States, such as New York and New Jersey, are pushing for the smoking age to be raised to 21, while Sri Lanka had banned public smoking in 2006, he added.

    Sata CommHealth launched a smoke-free campaign yesterday, in conjunction with World No Tobacco Day today.

    Two bus services - 67 and 963 - will carry advertisements with the slogan "Smoking burns away your life" for the next three months.

    To mark World No Tobacco Day, 145 retailers nationwide, together with large supermarket chains like Cold Storage, Giant, Sheng Siong and NTUC FairPrice, volunteered not to sell tobacco products today.

    Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Transport Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim announced this after visiting participating retailers in Geylang yesterday.

    He told reporters: "If we are able to do this nationwide, we will enhance the quality of life of Singaporeans as a whole."

    Smokers who attempt to buy cigarettes from participating retailers today will receive a blue-ribbon magnetic bookmark, as a symbol of support towards the national smoke-free movement.