SINGAPORE: The minimum legal age for the purchase, use, possession, sale and supply of tobacco products will be raised from 18 to 19 years old from next Tuesday (Jan 1).
This is part of the Government's plan to progressively raise the minimum legal age to 21 years old over a period of three years. It was passed in Parliament last November, as part of the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) (Amendment) Bill.
With this amendment, the minimum legal age will go up to 20 years old on Jan 1, 2020 and 21 years old a year later.
"Raising the MLA (minimum legal age) is part of the Ministry of Health (MOH)’s ongoing efforts to enhance public health and reduce smoking prevalence in Singapore," MOH said in a press release on Friday (Dec 28).
"It aims to prevent youth from picking up smoking by limiting access to tobacco products, and to further de-normalise smoking particularly for those below 21."
Retailers who sell any tobacco products to a person below the minimum legal age could be fined up to S$5,000 for a first offence and S$10,000 for subsequent offences.
In addition, their tobacco retail licence will be suspended for the first offence and revoked for subsequent offences.
Meanwhile, individuals who supply tobacco products to those under the minimum legal age will also face penalties.
Those caught buying or acquiring tobacco for a person below the minimum legal age could be fined up to S$2,500 for a first offence and S$5,000 for subsequent offences.
As for those caught giving or furnishing tobacco to a person below the minimum legal age, they could be fined up to S$500 for a first offence and S$1,000 for subsequent offences.
Underage smokers who are caught using, buying or having in their possession tobacco products could be fined up to S$300.
LAST GASP FOR SMOKERS?
The Government's drive to reduce smoking in Singapore has seen the introduction of several other measures.
Smokers of all ages who want to light up along Orchard Road will have to do so at one of about 40 "designated smoking areas" from Jan 1, 2019, as part of the Orchard Road precinct's designation as a No Smoking Zone.
Smoking corners at food and retail establishments within the No Smoking Zone will also be rescinded by Monday.
For the first three months of the No Smoking Zone roll-out, authorities will take an "advisory approach" in order to "facilitate the transition for smokers", the National Environment Agency (NEA) said in a media release on Friday.
This means that from Jan 1 to Mar 31 next year, those found smoking in newly prohibited public areas in the zone - such as along the pavement or in open areas - will receive verbal warnings or advisories from the agency's enforcement officers and volunteers.
When the advisory period ends, enforcement action will be taken against such offenders.
However, smokers found smoking in existing smoking prohibited areas such as covered walkways and bus-stops will continue to face enforcement action. The advisory approach will not apply to this group of smokers, said NEA.
NEA officers and volunteers in No Smoking Zone tops or with bright blue No Smoking Zone badges will be deployed to engage smokers and tell them to smoke within designated smoking areas, during the three-month advisory period.
Guidelines on the locations of these areas are available on NEA's website.
Separately, MOH announced earlier this year that it would introduce standardised packaging for tobacco products sold in Singapore.
All such products may soon be required to be sold in plain packaging with graphic health warnings covering at least 75 per cent of the packet.
The ministry intends to table the proposed amendments to current laws early next year. If enacted, the new measures may take effect from 2020.