Anti-smoking push

Retail outlets the weak link

Several encouraging measures have been introduced in recent years to control the harm of tobacco.

They are multi-pronged and intended to help smokers quit, dissuade smoking initiation and, more importantly, protect innocent bystanders - the non-smokers.

In reviewing these measures, one sees that more could be done on the supply side of tobacco retailing.

Currently, the cost of a new tobacco retail licence is only $400, and the yearly renewal fee is just $300. This is a pittance compared with the easy money made selling such a product to addicted "loyal customers" and curious new ones.

So, is it a surprise that there are more than 4,900 tobacco retail outlets here, or close to seven per square kilometre?

A study in Scotland has shownthat adolescents living in areas of high tobacco outlet density have higher odds of smoking and smoking initiation.

How can we effectively reduce the smoking rate when there is no disincentive for tobacco retailing, and tobacco is ubiquitous? The supply side is certainly a weak link.

Hence, I urge the Government to give due consideration for a plan to gradually reduce tobacco supply.

Increasing the cost of tobacco retail licences is a good place to start.

Lim Teck Koon

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 06, 2016, with the headline 'Retail outlets the weak link'. Print Edition | Subscribe