Aim to wipe out smoking altogether

There is ample evidence to prove that smoking can affect smokers' health and well-being.

If their health deteriorates, they may become a burden to their families and communities. The Government and taxpayers may also have to pay a high price to look after them.

Therefore, increasing the minimum legal age for smoking from 18 to 21 years is only delaying the rise of a potential problem (Minimum legal age for smoking to be raised to 21; March 10).

The authorities should consider stronger actions to reduce, if not remove, the harms of tobacco.

These actions should include major increases in the excise duties of tobacco.

By doing this, licensed importers and tobacco retailers can better adapt to the changes and reduce their dependence on sales of tobacco.

When smokers know that they will have to pay more for tobacco, it will act as a deterrent to smoking.

Smoking often starts as, and remains, a social activity; it is deemed to be "cool".

The authorities should continue to make it "un-cool" and "anti-social" to be seen smoking in public.

They should look into banning smoking from even places with low human traffic, and increase the distance between smokers and such places over time.

They should also limit the number of shops that sell tobacco, and impose restrictions on them.

If possible, regulate the shapes and sizes of cigarettes and cigarette boxes to make them unappealing and inconvenient for smokers to purchase, use and possess.

Let us aim to have a cut-off date, following which there will be no more new smokers.

To do that, the authorities should consider banning young people who are born after a specified year from smoking.

I am sure many parents, including many smokers, will support such a ban.

Patrick Liew Siow Gian (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2017, with the headline 'Aim to wipe out smoking altogether'. Print Edition | Subscribe