Enlarged graphic warnings for tobacco products in Singapore under new proposal
By Victor Loh
All tobacco products in Singapore may soon have enlarged graphic health warnings which could cover 75 per cent of the packaging, under a proposal by the country’s Ministry of Health (MOH).
The MOH said it will be conducting a public consultation exercise on the Standardised Packaging Proposal for six weeks from February 5th to March 16th.
Under the proposal, tobacco packaging elements are set to be standardised — also known as plain packaging. Under plain packaging, there is generally strict regulation of the promotional aspects of tobacco packaging, including trademarks, logos, colour schemes and imagery.
The packaging elements would also be standardised. The standardised packaging measure is often accompanied by a requirement to incorporate prominent mandatory health warnings on the packaging. Currently, graphic health warnings on tobacco products cover 50 per cent of the packaging.
In the statement, the ministry noted that the since the 1970s, many measures and initiatives have been introduced as part of a “comprehensive, multi-pronged approach to tobacco control”.
“Tobacco use continues to be a significant public health concern, and reducing tobacco use is critical in Singapore’s fight to secure more years of good health for Singaporeans,” it said.
From 1977 to 1984, smoking rates fell by four per cent, from 23 per cent to 19 per cent. It fell further to 12.6 per cent in 2004.
But the rate of decline in smoking rates in Singapore have slowed in the recent years.
“The smoking rates have been fluctuating between 12 per cent and 14 per cent in the last 10 years, with no clear pattern of continuous decline,” said the MOH.
“A particular concern is the fact that there remains a sizable proportion of men (more than one in five) who smoke daily.”
Even though the minimum legal age for smoking and the purchase of tobacco is set to rise from 18 to 21 years by 2021, the MOH said that the exposure of under-aged youths to smoking and to tobacco advertising is another concern.
The MOH said that it is the Government’s preliminary assessment that the Standardised Packaging Proposal would, alongside other existing and future tobacco control measures, “constitute a significant step towards Singapore becoming a tobacco-free society”.
It added that the Standardised Packaging Proposal would be an effective measure to reduce the attractiveness of tobacco products, among a slew of other effective results.