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MOH to study New Zealand's cohort smoking ban to see if it could be applied here

SINGAPORE —The Government will study New Zealand's recent move to implement a cohort smoking ban, to see how it might be applied to Singapore, Dr Koh Poh Koon said in Parliament on Tuesday (Jan 11).

MOH to study New Zealand's cohort smoking ban to see if it could be applied here
Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Health, said various studies have shown that every 10 per cent increase in cigarette prices will result in a 3 to 5 per cent dip in overall tobacco consumption.

SINGAPORE —The Government will study New Zealand's recent move to implement a cohort smoking ban, to see how it might be applied to Singapore, Dr Koh Poh Koon said in Parliament on Tuesday (Jan 11).

New Zealand announced last month that young people aged 14 and under in 2027 will never be allowed to buy cigarettes in their lifetime, in a bid to create a smoke-free generation.

Dr Koh, who is Senior Minister of State for Health, said that it is an attractive proposal as it prevents young people from taking up smoking, while not putting many restrictions on older smokers.

He was answering parliamentary questions from five Members of Parliament, who asked if Singapore would follow in New Zealand's footsteps.

“The Ministry of Health is open to studying such a policy,” Dr Koh said, adding that the ministry will review how New Zealand implements the ban, its effectiveness and how the country's experience could be applied to Singapore.

“But we need to take into account a few considerations," he noted.

"First, in Singapore’s case, young people are generally not taking up smoking, unlike the youth in many countries. The youth today no longer see smoking as glamorous and are aware of its harms.”

Dr Koh also noted that even though New Zealand has introduced the cohort smoking ban, it continues to promote vaping as an alternative to smoking, and Singapore disagrees with this approach.

He added that clamping down on vaping among the young in Singapore is the bigger challenge, because e-cigarettes still find their way here despite a ban.

“We will need to do more to enforce the current ban, push against the tide of popularity and increasing use," he said.

"If vaping becomes entrenched among the younger generation, it undoes all the progress we made on curbing smoking and will take an enormous effort over future decades to curb its use.”

Dr Koh also pointed out that one of the challenges with implementing New Zealand’s cohort smoking ban is enforcement. 

For such a ban to be effective, the Government would need to introduce laws to penalise older persons who are not subject to the ban but may abet offences, such as by supplying tobacco products to younger people.

“Nevertheless, we remain open to the idea.” 

In the meantime, the Ministry of Health will continue to work with the Ministry of Finance (MOF) to review tobacco taxes, which have been the most effective in reducing smoking prevalence among people here, Dr Koh said, adding that the tobacco tax was last increased in 2018.

“Our tobacco control measures have been successful. It has progressively reduced smoking prevalence rates, from 11.8 per cent in 2017 to 10.1 per cent in 2020. 

“(But) with inflation and income increases, the tax burden gets eroded over time and we will continue to work with MOF to review the tobacco tax rate.”

Dr Koh also said that various economic studies have come to a consensus that every 10 per cent increase in cigarette prices will result in a 3 to 5 per cent dip in overall tobacco consumption and a 3.5 per cent dip in young people taking up smoking.

“My ministry will continue to enhance our approach to tobacco control through public education, provision of smoking cessation services, legislation and taxation.

"We will also study new measures to further reduce access to tobacco products and tackle vaping, particularly among our youth."

Related topics

Smoking Ministry of Health vaping Koh Poh Koon tobacco tax Youth

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