Seventeen people were arrested for allegedly peddling and possessing chewing tobacco after authorities seized 21,036 sachets of the banned substance on Sunday and Monday at various sites in Singapore, including at a temple in Little India.
Not far from that temple — where the sachets were found inside of a backpack — more sachets were found hidden under a metal plate at a nearby pavement, while the rest were discovered at a storage facility in Jurong, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) said today, noting a total street value of approximately S$42,000 (US$30,000). Officials did not specify which temple the sachets were found at.
Two of the individuals arrested were in the country on social visit passes, which means that they are not legally allowed to work in Singapore — and according to the authorities, the two have been repatriated following the incident. It has not been publicized which country they came from.
The banned chewing tobacco in question is known as Khaini, which is made from sun-dried or fermented tobacco leaves, based on information by the National Center for Biotechnology Information in the US.
The leaves are crushed and combined with spices like cloves, and a pinch of slaked lime paste, before being packaged and sold for consumption.
Chewing tobacco is a known health hazard, with researchers linking it to the prevalence of head, neck and oral cancers in South Asia.
According to Singapore law, those found guilty of importing, distributing, selling or offering to sell chewing tobacco in the country can get fined up to S$10,000, jailed for up to six months, or both, on the first offense. The penalties double on subsequent offenses.
Meanwhile, those who buy, use or possess chewing tobacco could get fined up to S$2,000.
Chew on that, friends.