In a recent Parliament statement, Second Minister for Education, Dr. Maliki Osman, disclosed that a startling 800 students from schools and Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) were caught vaping and subsequently referred to the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) in 2022.
Dr. Maliki expressed that vaping, or the use of electronic vaporizers, is potentially a significantly underreported issue among students.
The Minister made this statement in response to a parliamentary question posed by Member of Parliament Joan Pereira (PAP-Tanjong Pagar), who sought to ascertain the number of students referred to HSA for vaping-related offenses over the last five years.
Before 2020, the numbers were alarmingly low, with fewer than 50 students from schools and IHLs referred to HSA for vaping violations. The escalating figures since then have prompted government authorities to take decisive action.
The Ministry of Education (MOE), in collaboration with the Health Sciences Authority (HSA), the Ministry of Health (MOH), and the Health Promotion Board (HPB), has expressed deep concern regarding the prevalence of vaping, not only among students but also within the broader community.
Dr. Maliki emphasized that the Education Ministry is actively working with these government bodies to enhance detection, enforcement, and education initiatives.
“Besides enforcement checks, our schools and IHLs have stepped up preventive education efforts to convey the harmful effects of vaping on one’s health. We seek the cooperation of families and the wider community to reinforce these messages strongly to stem this worrying trend,” he added.
It’s important to note that vaping is illegal in Singapore. Offenders can face fines of up to S$2,000 for using, purchasing, or possessing vaping products. Additionally, importing, distributing, or selling such products is strictly prohibited, with first-time offenders potentially facing fines of up to S$10,000, imprisonment for up to six months, or both. Repeat offenders are subject to even harsher penalties.
Despite the ban in place since February 2018, vaping products continue to be sold online and illicitly smuggled into the country.
HSA figures indicate a troubling rise in the number of individuals caught vaping and possessing vaping products. In 2022, a total of 4,916 people were apprehended for these offenses, marking a stark increase from 4,697 in the previous year and a substantial surge from the mere 1,266 cases recorded in 2020.
In an effort to combat the growing issue, schools have integrated anti-smoking and anti-vaping messages into their curricula. Dr. Maliki explained that upper primary students are educated about the harmful effects of tobacco products on health and fitness during physical education classes.
Additionally, character and citizenship education programs emphasize the importance of recognizing impulsive and addictive behaviors, understanding the harm to mental and physical health, and managing negative peer influences. At the lower secondary level, students are taught about the harmful substances found in vaping products and the broader consequences on individuals, families, and society.
JAIL & FINE
Recently HSA has cracked down on the illegal sale of electronic vaporisers (e-vaporisers), securing convictions against 18 individuals between April and August 2023. The fines totaled a significant $153,000, with one offender receiving a record 19-week jail term a first for e-vaporiser sales in the city-state.
The convicted individuals, aged between 23 and 40, exploited social media and e-commerce platforms for illegal transactions.
- Chuah Siang Chun: A 31-year-old Senior Customer Service Officer fined $34,000 for selling e-vaporisers on Instagram, with over 30 transactions netting him nearly $3,000.
- Pan Shuowei: A 29-year-old unemployed individual received a 19-week jail term for importing and selling e-vaporisers, procured from China and advertised on WeChat.
- Gautaman Senivasan: A 32-year-old student fined $20,500 for selling heat-not-burn tobacco products on Facebook.
HSA underscores that selling, possessing for sale, importing, or distributing e-vaporisers is illegal in Singapore, with fines up to $10,000 and imprisonment up to 6 months for first-time offenders. Subsequent violations can result in fines up to $20,000, imprisonment up to 12 months, or both.
Merely possessing, purchasing, or using e-vaporisers can incur fines up to $2,000 per offense.
From 2018 to 2022, HSA prosecuted 101 individuals for similar offenses, with the highest fine reaching $99,000.
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