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About 7 in 1,000 students caught for smoking and vaping offences over past 3 years: MOE

The average number of students caught for smoking and vaping offences has "remained low" over the past three years, says the Ministry of Education. 

SINGAPORE: The number of students caught for smoking and vaping offences has "remained low" at an average of about 7 for every 1,000 students over the past three years, said the Ministry of Education (MOE) on Saturday (Oct 1). 

The figure covers students in primary school, secondary school and pre-university institutions, the ministry said in response to CNA queries. 

"The Ministry of Education takes a firm stand against vaping," it added.

"We work closely with the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) and Health Promotion Board (HPB) to remind students that vaping is illegal at any age, and to also review guidelines and cessation efforts for student offenders."

The legal age for smoking in Singapore is 21.

And although the use, purchase and possession of e-vaporisers were banned in Singapore from February 2018, such products continue to be sold online and smuggled into the country.

HSA said earlier this year that there has been a significant increase in vaping cases. Teenagers and even primary school students are picking up the habit, a student health adviser told CNA in June.

When a student is caught committing smoking or vaping offences, the products are confiscated, said MOE.

The schools then impose "appropriate disciplinary actions" such as detention, suspension or caning for boys, depending on the severity of the offence. 

They are also reported to HSA, which will fine and take action against recalcitrant offenders, MOE said in its statement. 

Offenders are also referred to Student Health Advisors, as well as programmes meant to help them quit smoking. MOE said it also works with the students' parents to support them.

"Where necessary, schools may also conduct longer term preventive programmes with students in need of greater support," the Education Ministry said. 

In character and citizenship education lessons across the primary, secondary and pre-university levels, students learn to "recognise impulsive and addictive behaviours" that harm their mental and physical well-being. 

They also learn about strategies to develop self-control and manage negative peer influences, said MOE in its statement.

"Through the lessons, students are encouraged to make responsible decisions by considering how their actions can affect themselves and others. They are also encouraged to look out for peers in need and refer them to a trusted adult," said the Education Ministry. 

On top of the school curriculum, schools partner HPB to educate students on the health risks of vaping, said the ministry.  

"MOE also works closely with HPB to educate parents on the health risks associated with students using prohibited tobacco products such as vaporisers." 

Singapore has seen a rise in the number of people caught using and possessing vapes. In an update on Sep 27, HSA said 3,912 people were caught for these offences between January and August this year.

In 2021, 4,697 people were caught for the same offence, more than triple the figure of 1,266 in the previous year.

A total of 428 people were caught selling vapes from 2018 to August 2022. Ninety-one were prosecuted in the same period. 

Offenders found to be selling, possessing for sale, importing or distributing e-vaporisers can be fined up to S$10,000, jailed for up to six months, or both for the first offence.

Repeat offenders could be fined up to S$20,000, jailed for up to one year, or both.

Source: CNA/hw(gs)


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