SINGAPORE: MOH mulls banning point-of-sale display of cigarettes

The Health Ministry is looking at the possibility of banning point-of-sale display of tobacco products in stores.

This means that retailers may not be able to openly display cigarettes for sale.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong told Parliament that it may be an effective way of discouraging individuals from smoking or picking up the habit.

Customers will have to ask for tobacco products. These products will have to stored in areas that are not visible to the public, such as in closed drawers.

Mr Gan said his ministry will seek the views form the public, in the coming months, on this idea.

Smoking prevalence in Singapore, said Mr Gan, is relatively low, at 14.3 percent, compared to about 20 percent in New Zealand, 21 percent in the UK, and even higher in other developed countries.

But he added it on the rise, especially among young adults.

Smoking prevalence among young adults aged 18 to 29 years has risen at a faster rate than that of the general population – from 12.3 percent in 2004, to 16.3 percent in 2010.

Member of Parliament for Sengkang West SMC, Lam Pin Min, said: “According to the Bloomberg global health survey in 2012, Singapore has emerged top as the healthiest nation in the world. This is due in part to our highly efficient healthcare system, as well as the major role played by the Health Promotion Board, promoting healthy living among Singaporeans. Yet, let us not rest on our laurels. We need to do more to promote health living, with regards to obesity and smoking.”

Separately, as part of the ministry’s broader vision to push for healthy living among Singaporeans, Mr Gan announced the set-up of a Healthy Living Master Plan Taskforce.

It is chaired by Parliamentary Secretary Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim.

The taskforce will develop a plan on how Singapore can change its current landscape to encourage healthier living.

But Mr Gan said such change must come from within.

“We want this plan to be owned by the people, and to enable Singaporeans to make decisions that favour healthy living,” he said.

It has developed a 3P approach: Place, People, and Price.

It will consult stakeholders before finalising its recommendations.

Among the young, the Health Ministry (MOH) and the Health Promotion Board (HPB) are looking into introducing a set of food advertising guidelines for children.

Mr Gan said there is growing evidence that advertising affects children’s food choices and dietary habits.

As such, he said authorities will strengthen the standards for advertising to children, for food and drink products which are high in fat, sugar or salt.

“We conducted a broad-based consultation process on this issue last year. Responses from the public were overwhelmingly supportive for restrictions on food advertising to children to be introduced,” said Mr Gan.

MOH and HPB, together with the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore, an Advisory Council to the Consumer Association of Singapore (CASE), will jointly work out the details for implementation. It is to be announced later.

Related News: http://blogs.wsj.com/searealtime/2013/03/12/singapore-to-seek-ban-on-tobacco-displays-in-shops/

AFP Frederic J Brown
AFP Frederic J Brown