SINGAPORE - A ban on the import, distribution and sale of shisha will be implemented later this month, Parliamentary Secretary for Health Faishal Ibrahim said on Tuesday.
The ban will come under the new Prohibited Tobacco Products Regulations under Section 15 of the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act, he told Parliament.
As a transitional measure, existing licensed tobacco importers and retailers who import or sell shisha tobacco will be allowed to continue importing and retailing shisha tobacco until July 31, 2016.
This, explained Dr Faishal, will allow them enough time to deplete their stock and restructure their businesses, moving them away from the shisha business.
He was responding to Dr Chia Shi-Lu (Tanjong Pagar GRC), who asked if the Ministry of Health (MOH) will review its policies to strengthen the regulation of shisha use.
The ministry, said Dr Faishal, has reviewed the regulatory framework for shisha over the past year, looking to clamp down harder on shisha smoking in view of its adverse health effects.
It will also continue to improve public education efforts on the harms of shisha smoking.
Due to the sweet smelling smoke, there are often misconceptions that shisha smoking is less harmful and addictive, said Dr Faishal. These misconceptions, and the social nature of shisha smoking, have contributed to a rise in shisha smoking globally - particularly among young people - "which raises further concerns that shisha smoking may serve as a gateway to cigarette smoking".
The National Health Survey 2010 showed that 7.8 per cent of young adults aged 18-29 smoked shisha at least occasionally. In another study by the Health Promotion Board, three in five shisha smokers wrongly believed that smoking shisha was less harmful than cigarettes.
But shisha smoking, said Dr Faishal, is no less harmful than other forms of tobacco use. According to the World Health Organisation, a typical session of shisha smoking involves the inhalation of smoke equivalent to puffing on 100 or more cigarettes.
This, said Dr Faishal, exposes the smoker to high levels of harmful smoke toxicants like tar, carbon monoxide and nicotine.