The Straits Times
Published on Nov 29, 2012

Increase cost of cigarettes every year as a deterrent


I AGREE with Dr K. Thomas Abraham that we need stronger measures to curb smoking ("Smoking: Tougher measures needed; last Saturday). I have several suggestions:

- Make it more expensive to smoke in Singapore. With prices remaining unchanged over the last few years, one might say that cigarettes have become cheaper, after taking inflation into account. The authorities can raise taxes and lay out a plan stating that the cost of cigarettes will go up by, say, 10 per cent each year. An additional tax on cigarettes, in the form of a surcharge, can also be levied.

- Non-smokers can be given incentives, such as lower premiums for medical insurance or co-payments by the Government for medical insurance premiums.

- Progressively raise the legal age for the buying of tobacco products to 25 years. This can prevent youngsters from falling under the influence of peer pressure and picking up smoking in an attempt to be "cool".

- Maintain a database of smokers and make it mandatory to scan the identity card of a person buying cigarettes. This information can be shared with agencies to track smokers and help wean them off their addiction.

- Have regular anti-smoking educational campaigns that highlight the health hazards associated with smoking, the effects of passive smoke, the monetary cost of smoking, and the benefits of not smoking. This can be in the form of a documentary video regularly shown in schools, online or on primetime TV. Former smokers can also be roped in to help prepare and impart such messages.

Prem Prakash