21, 18 or 14: A look at the legal age for smoking around the world

The minimum legal age for smoking Singapore will be raised from 18 to 21. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

This article was first published on March 9, 2017, and was updated on Oct 3, 2017.

SINGAPORE - The minimum legal age for smoking in Singapore could be raised from 18 to 21, if a new bill presented in Parliament on Monday (Oct 2) is passed.

The bill was tabled by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong for the first reading and will be debated at a future sitting.

The new restriction, which will be phased in over a few years, covers both the sale to and purchase of tobacco products by those under 21, as well as the use and possession of tobacco products.

Here's a look at how the new number compares with other countries around the world.


Singapore is not the first country to set the age limit at 21. Others include: Honduras (Central America), Kuwait (Middle East), Samoa (Oceania), Sri Lanka (South Asia) and Uganda (East Africa). All these countries are the only ones in their respective region to set the minimum legal age at 21, as Singapore will be within South-east Asia.

The situation is murkier within the United States, where individual states and even cities have raised the minimum purchase age to 21 years of age, while others have maintained it at 18 or 19 years old.

Some of the places where the legal age is set at 21 in the US include New York City (but not the entirety of the state of New York), Boston (but not the entirety of the state of Massachusetts) and Hawaii.

In California, where Los Angeles and San Francisco are located, an 18-year-old is allowed to smoke but will need to get someone aged above 21 to buy his or her cigarettes.


The vast majority of countries in the world have the minimum purchase age set at 18. But unlike Singapore, the age limit for most does not cover the use and possession of tobacco products. Among the many such countries are Australia, China, India, Russia and South-east Asian neighbours Malaysia and Indonesia.

Some notable exceptions include Germany, where the limit applies across the board like in Singapore, and the United Kingdom, where the minimum smoking age is 16. In Ukraine, it is legal for people to smoke at age 14, although they must be 18 and above to purchase tobacco products.


Iraq, Palestine and Egypt are among the countries with the lowest stipulated age limit - 14.

And in three countries - Antigua and Babuda, Belize (both in the Americas) and Gambia (Africa) - there is no age limit at all.

All alone at the other end of the spectrum is Bhutan, often called the happiest country in the world, where smoking is illegal regardless of how old you are.

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