Need to get smokers to smoke responsibly

I thank Dr Michael Loh Toon Seng for his letter (Healthcare subsidies should be given without prejudice; July 12) in response to my comments in the July 9 article (More can be done to stub it out, says expert).

I fully agree with him that healthcare subsidies should be given without prejudice. I am confident that the Government will provide healthcare subsidies equally, without discrimination, to both smokers and non-smokers.

Singapore has been very successful in its tobacco control policies.

The clearest and most convincing evidence of their success is the decline in the incidence of lung cancer in our male population, from 60 per 100,000 in the 1980s to 30 per 100,000 today.

The proportion of male smokers has also halved since the 1980s, but has remained stagnant at around 20 per cent to 25 per cent over the last 15 years.

This stagnation is cause for worry, as it means we will see more cases of lung cancer in the future as the population ages. New and additional measures will have to be rolled out, and smokers may see these as impinging on their right to smoke.

We need to engage smokers not just to help them to quit, but also to get them to smoke responsibly, hence my comment: "If I am a smoker... I will smoke where no one is exposed to second-hand smoke and I will make sure that I do not encourage others to smoke. When I get cancer, heart attack or any other smoking-related ailments, I should bear the full cost of my treatment, and not expect any government healthcare subsidies."

To achieve a smoke-free nation, not only do we need more smoking control policies in place, but we also need both smokers and non-smokers to make an effort and take personal responsibility.

Chia Kee Seng (Professor)

Dean

Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health

National University of Singapore

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 17, 2017, with the headline 'Need to get smokers to smoke responsibly'. Print Edition | Subscribe