Singapore has reaffirmed its decision to ban electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes in 2018, with Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong clarifying that public health concerns, not potential tax revenue losses, were the primary reason behind the prohibition.
Responding to Member of Parliament Jamus Lim’s inquiries on the subject, Wong emphasized that the ban aimed to safeguard the population from the harms associated with e-cigarettes, also known as vapes.
Wong, who is also the Finance Minister, stated that “the potential loss in tobacco tax revenue from the reduced consumption of tobacco products was not a factor in this decision.” He dismissed the notion that financial implications played a role in the ban’s enforcement.
The parliamentary discussion further explored the practical implications of introducing a nicotine tax on e-cigarette products if they were to be legalized. Wong acknowledged that challenges similar to those faced by the tobacco industry would arise in the taxation and regulation of e-cigarettes.
However, he emphasized that the government has no intention of altering its current approach, as protecting public health and preventing harm from e-cigarettes, particularly among younger Singaporeans, remains its priority.
Parliamentary Reply by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Mr Lawrence Wong:
The Government’s decision to ban the use of e-cigarettes in 2018 was based on public health considerations, to protect our population from the harms of these products. The potential loss in tobacco tax revenue from the reduced consumption of tobacco products was not a factor in this decision.
If Government were to legalise and tax e-cigarettes, the challenges would be similar to those we encounter for cigarettes and other tobacco products today.
In any case, the Government has no plans to change our current approach, as our priority is to protect the health of our population and prevent e-cigarettes from causing harm to our people, especially to younger Singaporeans.
Vaping is currently illegal in Singapore, with offenders subject to fines of up to S$2,000.
Those involved in the importation, distribution, or sale of such products may face more severe penalties, including potential jail time.
To intensify efforts against vaping, authorities recently announced increased inspections at air, land, and sea checkpoints.
A joint operation conducted at Changi Airport in late December resulted in the identification of 177 arriving passengers in possession of e-vaporizers, 61 of whom were fined.
A total of 177 people were found in possession of e-vaporisers at Changi Airport in Singapore during a four-day multi-agency operation in December. Of those, 61 were fined for possessing vapes while the other 116 passengers avoided penalties by declaring and disposing of their vapes. The operation was part of an effort by the Health Sciences Authority, Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, and Ministry of Health to prevent the local prevalence of vaping.
Alongside border checkpoints, inspections will also be heightened at various public areas, including the central business district, shopping centers, parks, smoking areas, as well as public entertainment venues such as bars and clubs. Officials have termed these locations “public hotspots,” stating that offenders will be immediately fined on the spot.
In addition, authorities are monitoring the illicit sale of e-vaporizers on social media and messaging platforms to curb online access to such items.
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