Total ban on e-cigarettes to come into force soon

Some users say new laws, which make vaping even at home illegal, will see them returning to regular smoking

New laws kicking in soon will completely outlaw electronic cigarettes, making it illegal to light up the device even at home.

Only the sale, import and distribution of these battery-powered devices are against the law now.

There are also no penalties for users of e-cigarettes to smoke the vapour it produces, known as vaping, such as in private spaces.

But a ban passed in November last year will make it illegal for people to buy, use and own imitation tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes, e-cigars and e-pipes. It is slated to come into force in the next few months.

Some users of the products who are older than 18 - the minimum legal age for smoking - told The Straits Times they plan to go back to regular cigarettes.

Ms Fatima Yusof, 20, a waitress, said of vaping: "I like the flavours and it's cheaper than cigarettes but it's too difficult to find the refills."

Another user, polytechnic student Ang Zhi Ying, 19, does not mind switching back to conventional cigarettes. "I tried the e-cigarettes but I didn't like their aftertaste. It's too dry."

With the total ban, Singapore will have one of the world's toughest stances against the controversial products.

Neighbouring countries are moving towards allowing regulated use of such products.

According to the Bangkok Post, Thailand is reconsidering its three-year-old ban on e-cigarettes.

Malaysia has elected three ministries in January last year to regulate the hand-held device that heat flavoured, nicotine-infused liquids to produce a vapour, reported the Malay Mail Online. The Sultan of Johor, however, has vowed to stamp out vaping in the southern state.

In Indonesia, only businesses that have been certified by the health ministry and whose products meet national standards can import and sell e-cigarettes, The Jakarta Post reported.

When the ban was passed in Singapore in November, Parliamentary Secretary for Health Amrin Amin said the measures are to "de-normalise" the use of tobacco products over time and deny youth access to cigarettes.

The Health Ministry considers them gateway products that get users hooked on nicotine, which then leads to cigarette use.

Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist in private practice, said e-cigarettes can be a boon or bane, depending on the user's motivation.

If they were given to people who are not motivated to quit smoking or to initiate non-smokers into the habit, they, particularly the youth, may become hooked, he said.

"Their consumption may increase for them to get the same amount of kick, especially when they are stressed out."

But those who are motivated to quit can moderate their nicotine intake by "titrating downwards very gradually and conveniently", he added.

For sales executive Matthew Goh, 25, who has been smoking since he was 18, the ban on e-cigarettes will not change his habit. But he does see the good in the ban.

"I've seen teenagers in their school uniforms using the e-cigarettes, and I think it's difficult to accept (the sight of them)," said Mr Goh, who had tried e-cigarettes for a few months and thought them to be a cheaper alternative. He then went back to his old habit.

"I cannot quite compare the effects, but I think I'm taking in more nicotine with the e-cigarettes because it's hard to keep count, unlike regular cigarettes."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 01, 2018, with the headline 'Total ban on e-cigarettes to come into force soon'. Print Edition | Subscribe