Target underage smoking effectively

Underage smoking is a ubiquitous phenomenon in Singapore.
Underage smoking is a ubiquitous phenomenon in Singapore.PHOTO: ST FILE

Recent efforts to curb the prevalence of smoking in Singapore are commendable (Snuffing out an unhealthy habit in Singapore; Jan 6).

I belong to the generation affected by the rising minimum legal age policy, where my peers and I are legally unable to smoke until we turn 21.

This sounds good, until we realise that one-third of current smokers aged 18 to 21 started smoking when they were younger than 14 years old.

Underage smoking is a ubiquitous phenomenon in Singapore. Yet, the propensity for teenagers to smoke remains unaddressed in the recent policy changes. In fact, the higher minimum age further reinforces the forbidden fruit effect, as teenagers associate smoking with "looking cool" or acting "grown up".

The next step towards a smoke-free Singapore should be a policy combating the underage smoking epidemic, beyond simplistic education campaigns, to more effectively prevent the formation of a new generation of smokers.

The Tobacco Free Generation movement does exactly this, by proposing a birth year beyond which individuals are unable to smoke for the entirety of their lives. Birth year-based policymaking sets more ideal standards on the younger generation while still respecting older policies implemented on preceding generations.

Ullekha Murali, 18

A-level graduate

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 04, 2019, with the headline 'Target underage smoking effectively'. Print Edition | Subscribe