The Singapore government has taken and is currently going through great lengths towards a nation that’ll be absolutely 100 percent free of smokers. Aside from the usual trappings of high tobacco taxes and gradually raising the legal age for smoking, various regulations have been put in place including designated smoking areas in Nee Soon South and Orchard Road, as well as the blanket ban on products like nicotine patches, chewing tobacco and e-cigarettes.
But it is the outlawing of that last product mentioned that’s seen as questionable. E-cigarettes have been largely welcomed in places like the United States, the United Kingdom and various other countries in Europe, where former smokers have turned to vaping products to quit the habit. We even traveled all the way to London to find out how Singapore’s attitudes towards vaping compared to UK doctors, scientists, professors and health officials, a significant portion of whom are simultaneously anti-tobacco and pro-vape.
The matter of Singapore’s potentially harmful ban on e-cigarettes is a concern that was brought up in Parliament yesterday when various Members of Parliament (MPs) from both sides of the aisle challenged the government’s position, The Straits Times reported.
Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng pondered if Singapore “might be missing out on a chance to benefit” from policies that allow the controlled use of e-cigarettes to help smokers quit the real ones. He brought up the fact that Britain, New Zealand and the United States have done extensive studies and actually endorsed policies that allow them.
ST also reported that Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera suggested a “controlled quantity of e-cigarettes” and mandatory smoking cessation programmes for those wanting to break the habit.
“Surely, the humane thing to do is to allow smokers — both those seeking to quit and reduce consumption — an avenue to use a less harmful product?” he said.
In 2015, British tobacco policy experts wrote an open letter advising the Singapore government to reconsider their hardline policy against vaping, suggesting that the Ministry of Health’s decision to ban them is unscientific and unethical.
In response, Parliamentary Secretary for Health Amrin Amin argued that the volume of studies showing that imitation tobacco products are gateways to regular cigarettes outnumbers studies that prove the opposite. He asserted that the government is aiming for a “high and precautionary” level of public health protection.
In a response that’s completely unnecessary and unconstructive to the debate, Senior Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat questioned Perera’s motives, asking if he was actually supportive of e-cigarettes. Chee claimed that Perera’s business consultancy — Spire Group — had a client that apparently supplies glue used for cigarette sticks.
Perera strongly objected to Chee’s insinuation in Parliament and took to Facebook to shoot down the accusation.
Meanwhile, Singapore’s robust community of vapers and e-cigarette believers will carry on their illegal activities where they’ve always been — underground.