SINGAPORE: The majority of younger Singaporeans are supportive of the tough anti-drug measures the country is taking, but support for capital punishment for drug traffickers is lower than the national average, according to findings from a survey by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
The survey showed that 52.7 per cent of those from the 13-30 age group indicated the death penalty is an appropriate punishment for criminals who traffic a large amount of drugs, which is lower than the overall population's 69.6 per cent of people who support the sentence.
By comparison, 74.6 per cent in the above-30 camp indicated similar sentiments, it showed.
Similarly, those in the 13-30 age group indicated strong support for imprisonment (89.9 per cent) and caning (77.5 per cent) for drug traffickers - compared to 93 per cent and 80.1 per cent, respectively, for the general population.
In general, though, a majority of Singaporeans have a positive sentiment towards the country's drug situation and laws.
The survey showed that 80.5 per cent agree or strongly agree that the drug situation here is under control, while 89 per cent indicated the same when asked if Singapore's laws on drugs are effective in keeping it relatively drug-free.
This is the first time a survey was conducted by the MHA to study Singapore residents' perception of the drug situation in the country and their support for its anti-drug policies. It polled 2,000 Singapore citizens and permanent residents aged 13 and above, with face-to-face interviews conducted between July and October last year.
The sample size was representative of Singapore's resident population by age, race, gender and citizenship status, it added.
CANNABIS IN THE SPOTLIGHT
The survey also captured the sentiments towards cannabis, amid the wider landscape of countries legalising cannabis use. Thailand, for one, did so in December last year, becoming the first Southeast Asian country to do so.
It was found that most Singaporeans polled agreed or strongly agreed that the consumption of cannabis is addictive (82.4 per cent), harmful to one's health (80.2 per cent), and has a negative impact on society (83.2 per cent).
Additionally, 87.1 per cent said they agree or strongly agree that cannabis abuse should remain illegal in Singapore.
However, when drilling down, it was found that those aged 13 to 30 showed a lower level of support (79.9 per cent) compared to those who were older (89.2 per cent).
MHA said this showed the younger respondents generally hold a more liberal view on drugs and, in particular, cannabis.
According to statistics released by the Central Narcotics Bureau this February, there were 1,366 new drug abusers arrested in 2018 and, of these, 64 per cent are below 30 years old.
Users of methamphetamine formed the majority of these new drug abusers arrested at 1,021, and this was followed by cannabis at 172 and new psychoactive substances (NPS) at 110, the CNB figures showed.
MHA told CNA in a follow-up email that cannabis was picked because compared to other drugs like meth or heroin, the awareness of the harms brought by cannabis, especially among youths, is "relatively lower".
There is thus a need for better gauge of the level of public understanding of the harms of cannabis, it explained.
The ministry added that there is a perception that taking drugs like cannabis is not addictive, and this could be attributed to their exposure to misinformation about the drug.
"It may not be evident to these youths that the legalisation movement is fuelled by lobby groups with vested interests to legitimise a lucrative industry," it said.
As such, the insights gleaned in this latest survey will help it enhance its preventive drug education strategy, MHA said.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam reiterated in the press release issued Friday that the strong domestic support for Singapore's zero-tolerance approach towards drugs has helped the country's current situation, and it must persevere with tough laws and enforcement alongside efforts to educate.
"There is an increasing push internationally for drug liberalisation, driven also by commercial interests," Mr Shanmugam said. "The stakes are high. If we let up, there are consequences for the safety and health of our people, our children and future generations."