Legislation, public education needed to prevent youth from picking up smoking

New legislative measures limiting access to tobacco products, along with public education, are needed to ensure youths do not get started on the habit of smoking in the first place, said Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Parliamentary Sec
New legislative measures limiting access to tobacco products, along with public education, are needed to ensure youths do not get started on the habit of smoking in the first place, said Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Parliamentary Secretary for Transport and Health. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - New legislative measures limiting access to tobacco products, along with public education, are needed to ensure youths do not get started on the habit of smoking in the first place, said Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Parliamentary Secretary for Transport and Health.

Such measures include looking into a ban on emerging tobacco products such as oral-use tobacco and electronic cigarettes, and the use of standardised, plain packaging for tobacco products.

He was responding to questions posed to him by the public through Facebook at an online session on youth smoking. The event on Thursday was organised by national feedback unit Reach and the Ministry of Health in conjunction with World No Tobacco Day, which falls on Sunday.

Prof Faishal, who is also an MP for Nee Soon GRC and Reach's vice-chairman, touched on current efforts to prevent Singapore's youth from picking up smoking and took on suggestions on how to curb the issue.

Some suggested that the legal smoking age be increased to 21 years old. Another suggestion was to ban everyone born after a certain year from purchasing tobacco products.

Prof Faishal said the government will continue to monitor the latest developments in tobacco control from around the world, such as New York and Hawaii, which have raised the minimum legal age to 21.

Banning cigarettes altogether here would be a difficult, as smoking is already entrenched in Singapore and globally. "Smokers are addicted to the nicotine in cigarettes; some will quit but others might turn to black markets to get their supply," said Prof Faishal.

"Later this year we will be amending our legislation to introduce the point of sale display ban for tobacco products. This will reduce the attractiveness of tobacco products to our youths," he added.

lesterh@sph.com.sg