By 2017, tobacco products will no longer be displayed in stores in Singapore, the Health Ministry announced yesterday.
Retailers will have to keep them out of sight and hand them to customers on request, in a bid to deter people from picking up the habit and help smokers to quit.
The point-of-sale display (POSD) ban will be implemented after a one-year grace period for retailers to comply with regulations after changes have been made to the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act.
The amendments will likely be made by the middle of next year, Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor said yesterday.
All retailers will have to keep tobacco products out of sight at all times, unless re-stocking or selling them to a customer. They can keep them in self-closing, opaque boxes in a fixed location, or store them in an area that is not visible and accessible to the public.
The possibility of a tobacco POSD ban was first mooted in 2013. Since then, 14 dialogue sessions with retailers, young people, parents and healthcare professionals have been conducted.
Dr Khor said the ministry will work with retailers to reduce the impact on their business.
Based on feedback from retailers, additional provisions have been made. For example, they will be allowed to include a text-only price list that can be shown to customers only upon request.
Studies have shown the display of tobacco products has a very strong promotional effect and can influence non-smokers to try out cigarettes, according to Dr Khor.
She said: "Smoking rates have gone down from 18.3 per cent in 1992 to 13.3 per cent in 2013. But smoking rates among young men are still high and the rates among young women are creeping up."
Iceland was the first country to introduce a tobacco POSD ban. This was imposed in 2001.