MOH pushing against popularity of vaping among youths, will study NZ's cohort ban on smoking

SINGAPORE – Young people in Singapore no longer see smoking as glamorous and are aware of its harm, but they are attracted to e-cigarettes that they are able to obtain despite them being banned here, said Senior Minister of State for Health Koh Poh Koon in Parliament on Tuesday (Jan 11).

Dr Koh said Singapore is open to studying New Zealand’s cohort ban on smoking, and will look at how it implements the ban, its effectiveness, and how its experience could be applicable here.

He was responding to several questions raised by MPs on New Zealand’s recently announced cohort ban, as well as on the topic of discouraging smoking.

Last December, New Zealand announced its plans to raise the legal smoking age by one year every year, effectively banning the sale of tobacco to people born after 2008.

Dr Koh said that the cohort ban is an attractive proposal, as it prevents young people from taking up smoking while not putting too many restriction on older smokers.

“Then of course, as the years go by, more and more cohorts are smoking-free,” he added.

But he noted that in Singapore, young people are generally not becoming smokers, unlike their counterparts in other countries.

The bigger challenge here is instead the popularity of vaping products like e-cigarettes, which are still tobacco products and are harmful to users, he said.

He added that despite the outright ban on e-cigarettes in Singapore, they have found their way here through e-commerce.

He said: “We will need to do more to enforce the current ban, to push back against the tide of popularity and increasing use.

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Dr Koh noted that New Zealand is promoting vaping as an alternative to smoking.

“If vaping becomes entrenched among the younger generation, it undoes all the progress we made on curbing smoking, and will take an enormous effort over many years to curb its use.”

The effectiveness of a cohort ban also depends on enforcement, said Dr Koh.

Singapore would need to introduce laws to penalise older people who are not subject to the ban, but may commit abetting offences by supplying tobacco products to the affected cohorts, he said.


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