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01 Aug 2018

14th Mar 2016

Madam Speaker, I beg to move, “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

2. The adverse health effects caused by smoking tobacco are well-known. Smoking is the primary cause for lung cancer, and is also a risk factor for other types of cancer, such as cancers of the mouth, upper throat, oesophagus, bowel and bladder. Smoking is also a risk factor for many major chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, chronic lung diseases, heart disease and stroke.

3. Tobacco itself contains more than 60 chemicals, including nicotine. Nicotine is the substance that causes addiction. Once addiction sets in, many smokers find it difficult to quit even though they might want to.

4. Worldwide, tobacco is the cause of approximately 6 million deaths annually. More than 5 million of those deaths are a result of direct tobacco use, while more than 600 000 are the result of exposure to second-hand smoke. Many deaths due to tobacco use are preventable.[1] Smoking is the second highest risk factor that contributes to the burden of disease in Singapore. About six Singaporeans die prematurely from smoking-related diseases each day.

5. In Singapore we have brought down smoking rates over the years, from 18.3% in 1992, to an all-time low of 12.6% in 2004. We did this by being aggressive in our tobacco control measures. We introduced progressively stricter restrictions on smoking advertisements, banned the use and possession of tobacco by minors under 18, introduced mandatory graphic health warnings, and banned misleading descriptors such as “mild” or “light”.

6. Nonetheless, our smoking prevalence has in recent years crept up somewhat, to reach 13.3% in 2013. We have tightened up our tobacco control measures in the past two years. In November 2014, we introduced the ban on shisha or water pipe tobacco.

7. In December 2015, we banned emerging tobacco products not currently in the Singapore market, such as smokeless cigarettes. On 1 August 2016, the ban will be extended to products available here, such as snuff and gutkha.

8. The Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) (Amendment) Bill seeks to amend the current Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act to introduce the point-of-sale display ban. In addition, the Ministry of Health will be using the opportunity to further streamline our tobacco control measures and address new regulatory challenges posed by the tobacco industry.

9. Madam Speaker, please allow me to highlight the major provisions being introduced in the Bill. First, let me elaborate on the point-of-sale display ban.

Point-of-sale display ban on tobacco products

10. The ban on the point-of-sale display of tobacco products is a continuation of our tobacco control efforts. Firstly, we want to reduce exposure of non-smokers, especially youths, to the advertising effect of point-of-sale tobacco product displays. The aim is to ultimately de-normalise tobacco use.

11. Secondly, we want to decrease impulse purchases of tobacco products, thereby helping smokers who are trying to quit. Other countries such as Australia, Canada, Iceland, New Zealand, Thailand, and the United Kingdom have successfully introduced a point-of-sale display ban.

12. The new section 12A in clause 14 of the Bill will introduce the prohibition on the display of tobacco products. This will apply to all tobacco products, including cigars, beedies, ang hoon, and others, in addition to cigarettes. General tobacco retailers will be required to use storage devices to keep tobacco products out of the direct line of sight of customers and the public within their premises. They may choose different methods to comply with the ban, so long as the storage unit is self-closing. Options include using gravity flaps, vertical blinds, curtains or automated sliding/closing doors. As per current requirements, the storage unit has to be plain and without design, sound or lighting decorations, as these could draw attention to the storage units and be used as a form of advertising

13. Specialist tobacconists serve a niche market, as they sell primarily cigars. Unlike customers of general retailers, who may be shopping for other products, most customers who step into a specialist tobacconist shop have already made up their mind to buy tobacco products. Hence, for such shops, we will focus on limiting the advertising impact from outside the shops. Regulations will be crafted to allow specialist tobacconists to display their products within their premises, so long as the products are not visible from outside the premises.

14. Following feedback and appeals, general tobacco retailers will be allowed to use a text-only price list to facilitate communications with customers. Display of the price list is allowed only upon customers’ request, and its appearance will be prescribed by MOH. This is provided for in the new section 3(1A) in clause 4 of the Bill.

15. We have engaged tobacco retailers extensively since 2014 and briefed them on the requirements. Tobacco retailers will be given a one year grace period before the point-of-sale display ban takes effect.

Tightened measures for Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS)

16. Globally, there has been a marked increase in the popularity of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), also known as e-cigarettes, especially among young people. ENDS vapour contains cancer-causing agents. Studies show that high school students who use ENDS are more likely to move on to smoke cigarettes. To protect public health, Singapore has pre-emptively banned the import, distribution and sale of ENDS.

Extension of prohibition on imitation tobacco products

17. ENDS are banned under the existing Act as imitation tobacco products that are designed to resemble existing tobacco products. Earlier models of ENDS looked like traditional cigarettes, to appeal to smokers or would-be smokers. However, newer varieties of ENDS do not necessarily look like cigarettes. They are sleek, colourful, and deliberately attention-grabbing. They target not just current smokers, but also seek to expand market demand, especially among youth and women.

18. Clause 18 of the Bill repeals and re-enacts section 16 of the Act to make it clear that the existing ban on the importation, distribution and sale of imitation tobacco products also includes products that may be used in such a way as to mimic the act of smoking, even though they may not necessarily physically resemble cigarettes or other tobacco products.

19. The ban will also extend to the components of such products, to prevent such products from being imported in parts, and re-assembled thereafter.

Prohibition of advertisements relating to tobacco products and imitation tobacco products

20. With the increasing popularity of ENDS, there is a need to control the advertising of such products. Clause 4 extends the existing prohibition on advertisements for tobacco products to imitation tobacco products, and corresponding amendments will be made to sections 6, 7, and 8 of the Act.

Ensuring a comprehensive ban on cross-border advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products on all media, including the Internet, originating from Singapore

21. With expansion of online access, there is increasing use of the internet for tobacco advertising and commerce. As part of the global public health community, Singapore should ensure that our existing prohibitions on tobacco advertising and promotion are comprehensive, and cover online advertising and promotion originating from Singapore. This is in compliance with the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, to which Singapore is a signatory.

22. Clause 4 of the Bill amends section 3 of the Act such that our ban on tobacco product advertisements extends to advertisements that are published electronically in Singapore. These include advertisements originating from Singapore, even if targeted at a foreign audience, as well as advertisements originating from outside Singapore that are accessible by persons physically in Singapore and published by a Singapore-connected person. A “Singapore-connected person” is defined in clause 2 of the Bill. The amended section 3 also prohibits internet advertisements that provide a facility to the person accessing these advertisements to buy tobacco products or imitation tobacco products.

23. Clause 9 amends section 9 to prohibit tobacco product sales promotions that originate from Singapore, even if targeted at persons outside Singapore.

To disallow the redemption of reward points for tobacco products and other similar promotional schemes

24. Sales promotional schemes have evolved over the years. The new section 9A in clause 10 of the Bill makes it explicit that customer loyalty programmes involving tobacco products, such as the redemption of reward points for tobacco products, and other promotional schemes are disallowed.

25. Besides the changes outlined above, we also took the opportunity to make a number of additional amendments to the Act to be in line with the latest legal policy developments, improve clarity, and enhance its implementation. Some of these are as follow:

Possession of tobacco products by persons below the age of 18

26. Clause 12 amends the wording of section 11 to improve clarity. Authorised officers may seize the tobacco products if an offence is committed under section 11(1).

To prescribe the visual characteristics of the “No sale to minors” sign

27. Clause 15 allows the Health Sciences Authority to specify the visual characteristics of the “No sale to minors” sign used.

To clarify the prohibition on the retail or wholesale of tobacco products via vending machine

28. Clause 16 repeals the current section 14. The existing ban on sale of tobacco products via vending machines will now be covered under the amended Section 18.

To clarify the licensing requirements to deal with tobacco products

29. Clause 20 repeals and re-enacts Section 18 to clarify the licensing requirements for the wholesale or retail of tobacco products in Singapore. It will limit the sale of tobacco products to a single point of sale specified in the tobacco retail licence, to limit access to tobacco products. For example, a supermarket may only have one point of sale for tobacco products, which is already the current practice.

30. The Minister will be empowered to make regulations to give effect to these licensing requirements, as provided for in clause 31. For example, the Minister will be able to make regulations to specify the fees to be paid by tobacco wholesalers and retailers, and the length of time for which the licences are granted.

Clarifying enforcement powers

31. Clause 24 provides that police officers and authorised officers are empowered to ask a suspect to produce identification, search his bags and require him to reveal the contents of his pockets. This is necessary to prevent suspects from concealing evidence in their bags or pockets from enforcement officers. As a safeguard, enforcement officers have been trained to follow standard operating procedures strictly, and regularly undergo refresher training. No physical search of the body is involved.

32. Clause 25 enhances the powers of investigations, by allowing the Chief Executive, HSA and authorised officers to require relevant information to be furnished in writing, for the purposes of investigation.

33. Clause 26 amends section 26 to empower the Chief Executive and authorised officers to inspect and seize electronic documents and materials, computers or other relevant equipment in which evidence may be stored, and to request that access codes or passwords be provided. The clause also extends existing search powers of premises to include conveyances. It will be an offence to wilfully fail to comply with a requirement made under the amended section 26.

34. Clauses 28 and 29 extend the scope of powers of forfeiture to include any imitation tobacco product, document, material or article, and empower the Chief Executive to give directions on the disposal of forfeited items seized under the Act. I would like to clarify that the powers of forfeiture are not new to the Act. The amendments here take into account the other changes in this Bill as well as the changing enforcement landscape, and are scoped to allow HSA to continue exercising its functions under the Act effectively. Similar powers of seizure are provided for in the Health Products Act and the Sale of Food Act.

Conclusion

35. Madam Speaker, smoking is the primary cause of premature death in Singapore. Though we are fortunate that smoking prevalence in Singapore has remained relatively low compared to many other countries, we must not be complacent. We also know the industry aggressively markets their products to youth, so as to hook them from an early age. As such, we must continue and in fact step up our efforts to protect the public from the advertising effects of tobacco, and introduce new measures to enable us to keep pace with the rapid changes in the industry. I seek the Members’ support for this Bill.

Madam Speaker, I beg to move.


[1]
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs339/en/




Category: Speeches