8,000 vaping-related offences in 2023, up 40% from year before

2 April 2024

By Koh Wan Ting, Channel News Asia

Most of the offences were for the purchase, use and possession of vapes.

SINGAPORE: Singapore authorities handled around 8,000 vaping-related offences last year, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health Rahayu Mahzam on Tuesday (Apr 2).

This represented a 43 per cent jump from the 5,600 similar offences recorded in 2022. A total of 7,600 offences were recorded in 2021.

Of these, about 4,700, 5,000 and 7,900 were purchase, use and possession offences in 2021, 2022, and 2023 respectively, Ms Rahayu added. 

Member of Parliament (MP) Ang Wei Neng (PAP-West Coast) had asked how much vaping feedback was received by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA), and the size of HSA’s enforcement team dedicated to vaping enforcement, along with the number of summons on vaping offences issued by HSA in the last three years.

Authorities continued to seize large quantities of vaping products over the past year, including a record haul of 85,000 such products seized during a warehouse raid in March 2023. 

Vaping is illegal in Singapore and offenders can be fined up to S$2,000 (US$1,478) for the possession, use and purchase of vapes. 

Those who import, distribute or sell such products face stiffer penalties, including a higher fine and a possible jail term.

Ms Rahayu said HSA received 1,700, 1,500 and 2,070 pieces of vaping feedback from the public and other agencies in 2021, 2022, and 2023 respectively. 

On the size of the HSA team, Ms Rahayu noted that HSA was primarily a scientific agency with a “modestly-sized” enforcement team, but that it was supported by other agencies such as the National Environment Agency (NEA), National Parks Board and Immigration and Checkpoints Authority. 

“Our schools also take an active approach to prevent students from picking up the habit of vaping,” said Ms Rahayu, who is also Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Law. 

CNA reported in December last year that youths were starting to pick up the habit of vaping from as early as primary school, with sellers targeting younger people. 

In the same month, the Ministry of Health announced a multi-agency effort to step up vaping enforcement and education

This included working with enforcement authorities to disrupt the sales and supply of vapes at borders, improving detection and removal of sales and advertisements of vapes online, and enhancing enforcement within the community, including schools.  

Since Dec 1, 2023, enforcement officers from the NEA have been empowered to take action against those who use or possess vapes, with cases referred to HSA. Cases which require a notice of composition to be issued are handled by HSA.

Supplementary questions centred on how multi-agency efforts will look like going forward. 

Mr Ang asked if the size of the HSA enforcement team will grow given the increasing number of violations, while MP Yip Hon Weng (PAP-Yio Chu Kang) asked if more agencies will come on board and if HSA will continue to take the lead. 

In response, Ms Rahayu said the issue had to looked at from a “multi-pronged perspective” which included outsourcing enforcement measures to other agencies. 

“So what happens is that the agencies will actually cross-enforce, meaning that if there are agencies that take up and pick up some of these cases of vaping, it is referred to HSA, and HSA can then issue the necessary notice of composition.”

Other authorities, such as the Ministry of Communications and Information, look at upstream measures targeted at curbing the sale of products online. 

However she pointed out that the authorities needed to figure out the best approach and to deploy resources efficiently rather than simply bringing all agencies on board.