Standardised packaging part of measures to encourage tobacco-free lifestyle here

We refer to the letters by Mr Andrew John de Roza (More radical approach to tackle smoking may be needed; Nov 3), Mr Mohammed Saleem Mohammed Ibrahim (Enlightened approach needed for a smoke-free Singapore; Nov 6), Mr Seah Yam Meng (Price and access are key to stub out smoking problem; Nov 6) and Mr Tang Li (New approach to combat smoking habit; Nov 8).

Singapore adopts a comprehensive, multi-pronged approach towards tobacco control, based on international best practices.

The standardised packaging (SP) proposal is based on a wide and deep body of international and local evidence demonstrating its likely efficacy in meeting a range of public health objectives and broader tobacco control aims, which include discouraging tobacco consumption.

When introduced, the SP proposal will form part of a comprehensive suite of tobacco control measures in Singapore, and operate alongside other tobacco control measures, including education, taxation, smoking cessation programmes, bans on tobacco advertising, the point-of-sale display ban and the minimum legal age for tobacco.

These measures aim to discourage non-smokers from picking up smoking, encourage smokers to quit and promote a tobacco-free lifestyle.

The issue of e-cigarettes is a separate one from regulation of tobacco packaging.

Health risks from e-cigarettes may include possible tissue injury and disease, lung cancer, lung disease, heart disease, nicotine dependence and adverse effects on infant and adolescent brain function and development.

Studies in Britain, Canada and the United States show that e-cigarettes can appeal to non-smokers, including the young, and increase the likelihood of users progressing to cigarette smoking or to continue with the dual use of e-cigarettes and cigarettes.

The recent experience in the US, with an exponential increase in the use of new e-cigarette products among the youth, is cautionary.

In contrast, the evidence of the role of e-cigarettes in aiding smoking cessation is limited.

We will continue to watch the emerging evidence, and do not rule out allowing particular e-cigarettes to be registered and regulated under the Health Products Act as a therapeutic product prescribed by doctors for smoking cessation, if sufficient evidence emerges to support this.

We recognise that tobacco is addictive, and many smokers need help to quit.

The Health Promotion Board's I Quit programme provides help for smokers to quit, including encouraging family members to provide support.

We will continue to work towards bringing the overall smoking rate to a level that is as low as possible, so that Singaporeans can live healthily for more years.

Lim Siok Peng (Ms)

Director, Corporate Communications

Ministry of Health

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2018, with the headline 'Standardised packaging part of measures to encourage tobacco-free lifestyle here'. Print Edition | Subscribe