Singapore Even Tougher on Smoking in 2021

By Dr. Robert Wallace

November 5, 2020 6 min read

TEENS: Regular readers know that this column often warns teens about the dangers of all forms of smoking. Today we again take a look at how societal laws regarding smoking are becoming tougher and are designed to discourage young people from ever beginning this most unhealthy habit. Why another smoking update? Well, a new law in Singapore will take effect on Jan. 1, 2021, that raises the legal age for smoking to 21 years old! Singapore is well known for being a land of many laws, and they certainly are sending a clear message to their citizens and the world of just how dangerous smoking truly is and how serious they are about doing all they can to discourage participation in this habit.

We in the United States and Canada like to think that we are the world leaders when it comes to the health and safety of our citizens. Most often, it's true, but when it comes to smoking, Singapore may well have in place the most stringent anti-smoking laws in the world. In Singapore, cigarette packages are required to have health warnings displayed on both sides. In addition, they use blunt wording with these messages: "Smoking kills" and, "Smoking harms your family."

Any establishment or distributors in Singapore caught selling cigarettes to minors face fines of up to $5,000 for their first offense, and any members of the military who smoke in public while in uniform are fined and disciplined. Smoking is now banned in all restaurants, supermarkets, department stores, museums, theaters, indoor sports arenas, public transportation locations and government offices.

Singapore is also hard on teens who seek to smoke. Fines of $30 are imposed on anyone under the age of 18 who is simply caught carrying cigarettes in public, whether or not they were actually smoking. This fine then doubles for a second offense. It's the parents' responsibility to see that the fines are paid. If they are not, parents are subjected to spending a night in jail. Teachers are also required to report and fine students who break the smoking and cigarette laws.

Smoking is strictly forbidden in public buildings, government offices, workplaces, train stations, bus interchanges, elevators, shopping centers, air-conditioned restaurants, taxis, buses and theaters. It's also prohibited in indoor fast-food outlets, bowling alleys, bars, nightclubs and many other public spaces. Be very careful where you choose to smoke because you'll face a steep fine if you break this rule. First-time offenders can face a fine of up to $1,000, and repeat offenders face one of up to $2,000 and a "Corrective Work Order." The same rules apply to locals and visitors. If you are a smoker, carefully look for designated places where smoking is allowed (there are a few places left, but the list is continuously dwindling) to be sure you aren't inadvertently breaking any laws. You'll want to avoid any penalties.

Simply bringing cigarettes into Singapore by land or by sea is a chargeable offense. Singapore customs is very strict about bringing tax-free cigarettes into the country. All cigarettes and tobacco products are subject to duty fees, including those purchased in Singapore with the "Singapore Duty Paid Cigarette" mark. This mark differentiates between Singapore-bought cigarettes and contraband ones.

There are officers waiting when you collect your bags; each item of luggage is put through a machine to check for cigarettes. If you have them in your possession, you will be subjected to a large fine. Buying cigarettes in Singapore is quite expensive, but travelers have learned that it is much cheaper than the risking steep fines that are imposed for smuggling cigarettes into the country.

Singapore also has laws banning smokeless and electronic cigarettes. Chewing gum is another substance that is banned because the import, sale and possession of chewing gum is illegal across the nation. Singapore is well known for their implementation of the death penalty for drug trafficking. Though cigarettes are not in the category of hard drugs, this tiny nation state is taking dead aim at stamping out smoking, especially for teenagers.

People who break the rules in Singapore quickly learn they face serious consequences.

Yes, teens, this small country has rules and laws that are ever-evolving and seem to Americans to be quite severe. The reason to point them out to our readers is to remind everyone, especially teenagers, that the world is cracking down in an attempt to reduce and hopefully eliminate this very unhealthy habit.

Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: Free-Photos at Pixabay

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