Singapore: IN FOCUS: Snuffing out smoking – is this the last mile in Singapore’s fight against tobacco?

25 February 2023

By Chew Hui Min, Channel News Asia 

Do tax hikes deter smoking and will banning future generations from smoking help to eradicate smoking in Singapore? CNA asks experts how Singapore can become a smoke-free nation.

SINGAPORE: Dozens of smokers were streaming in and out of a designated smoking area in Orchard Road on Monday (Feb 20), nearly a week after tobacco taxes went up 15 per cent.

A pack of cigarettes has gone up by about S$1.50 to S$2, but it wasn’t stopping the smokers there.

Mr Steven Li, 35, who goes through half a pack of cigarettes a day, said that he’s tried to quit smoking twice but always went back to old habits.

When asked about the price hike and what might make him stop, he said in Mandarin: “I’ll smoke no matter how high the price (of cigarettes) is.”

Like many other smokers CNA spoke to, Mr Li said that he picked it up as a teen and he now smokes as a way of coping with stress. One former smoker, who has now turned to vaping, called it a form of “copium” – a portmanteau of “cope” and “opium”.

The higher prices do “pinch a bit”, said another smoker who asked not to be named. Those smoking a packet a day can spend more than S$300 a month on cigarettes, and a few told CNA they go through more than a pack a day, forking out about S$500 a month.

Some said they will try to cut down the amount they smoke, while others said they may switch to cheaper brands. But one smoker admitted that after a while, they “get used” to the higher prices.

The tobacco tax hike in the 2023 Budget was the third increase in cigarette prices in nine years. The 15 per cent hike is meant to discourage the consumption of tobacco products, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said on Feb 14.

The increase is expected to generate about S$100 million in additional tax revenue per year.