Speaking today in Parliament at the Committee of Supply debates, Minister of State for Health Amy Khor said that while efforts ranging from education to taxes and legislation had brought smoking rates here down to 15 per cent – “one of the best in the world” – Singapore could not afford to let its guard down.
“To bring us to the next stage in tobacco control, beyond top-down legislative measures, we will focus on stronger, ground-up efforts that together, will de-normalise tobacco use and establish smoke-free living as the social norm,” she said. “We will also work with NEA on the long-term goal of banning smoking in all public places other than designated smoking areas.”
Responding to a query from Minister of Parliament Janil Puthucheary, in which he asked if the Ministry of Health would consider articulating a vision of being a “tobacco-free nation”, Ms Khor said: “We share Dr Janil’s vision of eliminating tobacco from Singapore one day, but when that day will come, we cannot be sure.”
To that end, from March next year, the Health Ministry will ban misleading terms on tobacco product packaging and labelling, and lower cigarette tar and nicotine limits. Graphic Health Warnings will be replaced with a new set to ensure continued impact.
A Blue Ribbon movement was launched last week to promote smoke-free environments, while the Health Promotion Board is working with youth networks on a “Live it Up Without Lighting Up” movement. Some success has been seen, Ms Khor said, with the rates of youths aged 13 to 16 years old smoking on at least one day in the past month decreasing from 11 per cent in 2000 to 6 per cent in 2009,