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12 Jan 2022

11th Jan 2022

NOTICE PAPER NO. 847
NOTICE OF QUESTION FOR ORAL ANSWER
FOR THE SITTING OF PARLIAMENT ON 10 JANUARY 2022

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Mr Darryl David
MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC

Question No. 2153

To ask the Minister for Health whether the Ministry provides any subsidies for individuals to purchase smoking cessation aids. 

NOTICE PAPER NO. 863
NOTICE OF QUESTION FOR ORAL ANSWER
FOR THE SITTING OF PARLIAMENT ON 10 JANUARY 2022

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Mr Liang Eng Hwa
MP for Bukit Panjang GRC

Question No. 2171

To ask the Minister for Health whether the Government will consider introducing a lifetime ban on cigarette sale to young persons below a certain age, similar to New Zealand’s plan to introduce legislation to eliminate smoking for the next generation, reported on 9 December 2021.

NOTICE PAPER NO. 864
NOTICE OF QUESTION FOR ORAL ANSWER
FOR THE SITTING OF PARLIAMENT ON 10 JANUARY 2022

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Mr Yip Hon Weng
MP for Yio Chu Kang GRC

Question No. 2174

To ask the Minister for Health (a) since the minimum legal smoking age was raised to 21 years of age last year, how many youths have been caught smoking illegally; (b) what support did they receive to quit smoking; and (c) following New Zealand's move to ban smoking for future generations, whether the Ministry will reconsider the tobacco-free generation proposal with the goal of eliminating smoking in future generations of Singaporeans.

NOTICE PAPER NO. 877
NOTICE OF QUESTION FOR ORAL ANSWER
FOR THE SITTING OF PARLIAMENT ON 10 JANUARY 2022

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Ms Cheng Li Hui
MP for Tampines GRC

Question No. 2218

To ask the Minister for Health with regard to reducing cigarette smoking prevalence (a) how effective has the introduction of plain packaging and enlarged graphic health warnings been; and (b) whether the Ministry will consider additional measures such as further increasing the excise duty for tobacco products or introducing a lifetime ban on cigarette sale to young persons below a certain age, similar to New Zealand’s plan to introduce legislation to eliminate smoking for the next generation.

NOTICE PAPER NO. 885
NOTICE OF QUESTION FOR ORAL ANSWER
FOR THE SITTING OF PARLIAMENT ON 10 JANUARY 2022

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Mr Melvin Yong Yik Chye
MP for Radin Mas

Question No. 2248

To ask the Minister for Health (a) for each year over the past five years, how much does smoking-related diseases cost the healthcare sector; (b) whether the Ministry will study New Zealand's ban on the sale of tobacco products to those born after a particular year; and (c) if so, when will the study be expected to be completed and results presented to the public.

NOTICE PAPER NO. 890
NOTICE OF QUESTION FOR ORAL ANSWER
FOR THE SITTING OF PARLIAMENT ON 10 JANUARY 2022

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Ms He Ting Ru 
MP for Sengkang GRC

Question No. 2289 

To ask the Minister for Health (a) whether the Ministry intends to introduce a generational tobacco purchasing ban similar to that implemented by New Zealand; and (b) whether other measures are being studied to reduce rates of smoking in the general population.

NOTICE PAPER NO. 893
NOTICE OF QUESTION FOR ORAL ANSWER
FOR THE SITTING OF PARLIAMENT ON 10 JANUARY 2022

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Ms Mariam Jaafar
MP for Sembawang GRC

Question No. 2353

To ask the Minister for Health (a) whether the Ministry has any target to bring down the smoking rate in Singapore in the (i) mid-term of three years and (ii) long term of five and 10 years; and (b) if so, what are the steps being taken to achieve this reduction.

NOTICE PAPER NO. 864
NOTICE OF QUESTION FOR ORAL ANSWER
FOR THE SITTING OF PARLIAMENT ON 11 JANUARY 2022

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Dr Lim Wee Kiak
MP for Sembawang GRC

Question No. 2177

To ask the Minister for Health (a) how many people gave up smoking in the past two years compared to the pre-COVID-19 pandemic figures; (b) whether this trend is in line with our target to reduce the smoking rate to 5% by 2035; and (c) whether the Ministry will consider a ban on cigarette sales to young Singaporeans born after 2012 that can result in the gradual phasing out of tobacco smoking altogether in Singapore.

NOTICE PAPER NO. 877
NOTICE OF QUESTION FOR ORAL ANSWER
FOR THE SITTING OF PARLIAMENT ON 11 JANUARY 2022

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Mr Louis Ng Kok Kwang
MP for Nee Soon GRC

Question No. 2228

To ask the Minister for Health (a) whether the Government will study the implementation of a ban on the sale of tobacco products to those born after a particular year, in addition to the current minimum legal age; (b) if so, what are the factors the Government will look into when determining whether to implement such a ban and when will the results of the study be announced; and (c) if not, why not.

Answer

1.   Smoking and secondhand smoke exposure are associated with at least 11 major medical conditions that accounted for about $180 million of healthcare cost in 2019. Our consistent policy has been to reduce our smoking rates, and encourage smokers to quit. 

2.   
We do not have comparable figures of the smoking quit rate in the past two years as requested by Dr Lim Wee Kiak. Our tobacco control measures have been successful. It has progressively reduced smoking prevalence rates, from 11.8% in 2017 to 10.1% in 2020. 

3.   
The most effective has been tobacco tax. Several economic studies have reached a consensus that for every 10% increase in real price, there will be about a 3 to 5% decrease in overall tobacco consumption, a 3.5% reduction in young people taking up smoking, and a total of about 7% reduction of kids taking up smoking as well. It was last increased in 2018. So with inflation and more income increases, the tax burden gets eroded over time, and we will have to continue to work with the Ministry of Finance to review the tobacco tax rate. 

4.   
In 2020, standardised packaging and enhanced graphic health warnings were required for all tobacco products sold in Singapore, to reduce the attractiveness of cigarettes. It is however still too early to evaluate the effectiveness of this measure. 

5.   
We also progressively raised the minimum legal age for smoking from 19 years in 2019 to 21 years in January 2021. This aims to denormalise tobacco use among youth below the age of 21, restrict their access to tobacco products in their social circles, and hence reduce the likelihood of smoking initiation. It has contributed to a decline in smoking among younger adults aged 18 to 29 years, from 9.8% in 2017 to 8.8% in 2020. 

6.   
MOH and HPB will be piloting a new smoking cessation programme where eligible individuals will be offered subsidised Nicotine Replacement Therapy that is complemented with counselling in public healthcare institutions. 

7.   
Smokers who are looking for support to quit can also join the Health Promotion Board’s (HPB) I Quit Programme. It offers smokers a range of smoking cessation interventions, such as phone or face-to-face counselling, or frequent nudges via text messages to encourage participants to sustain their behaviours.

8.   
There have been several questions raised by MPs on New Zealand’s recently announced cohort smoking ban. It is an attractive proposal, in that it prevents young people from taking up smoking while not putting too many restriction on older smokers. Then, as the years go by, more and more cohorts are smoking free.

9.   
MOH is opened to studying such a policy. But we need to take into account a few considerations. First, in Singapore’s case, young people are generally not taking up smoking, unlike the youths in many countries. Our youths today no longer see smoking as glamorous, and are aware of its harms. 

10.   
Second, our bigger challenge amongst the young people here, are e-cigarettes, which are still tobacco products and harmful to the users, despite its fruity flavours. It is therefore outright banned in Singapore. But with eCommerce, they still find their way here. We will need to do more to enforce the current ban, push against the tide of popularity and increasing use. If vaping becomes entrenched amongst the younger population, it undoes all the progress we have made on curbing smoking, and will take an enormous effort over many years to curb its use.

11.   
Although New Zealand have announced a cohort smoking ban, it promotes vaping as an alternative to smoking. So over time, the habit may shift from smoking to vaping, which in itself is still harmful. 

12.   
Third, the challenge with a cohort ban is in enforcement. For such a ban to be effective, we would need to introduce laws to penalise older persons who are not subject to the ban but for abetting offenses such as supplying tobacco products to the affected cohorts. A similar proposal was discussed in Parliament in 2016 when amendments to the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act were introduced, and MOH explained the challenge of implementation and enforcement then. 

13.   
Nevertheless, we remain open to the idea. New Zealand’s announced ban will be the first time a country will be implementing such a ban at the national level. We will study how New Zealand implements the ban, its effectiveness and how their experience could be applicable to Singapore.

14.   
My Ministry will continue to enhance our approach to tobacco control, through public education, provision of smoking cessation services, legislation and taxation. We will also study new measures to further reduce access to tobacco products and tackle vaping, particularly among our youths.