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Two retailers’ licences suspended for selling tobacco to minors

Both retailers have had their tobacco retail licences suspended for six months, according to the Health Sciences Authority.

SINGAPORE: The licences of two tobacco retailers have been suspended for six months for selling tobacco products to minors under 18 years of age, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) announced in a media release on Tuesday (Apr 12).

The retailers are:

• Fair Inn Food Place, located at 806 Woodlands Street 81 #01-115
• H.R Frozen Food and Trading, located at 205 Choa Chu Kang Central #01-K1

Fair Inn Food Place will not be allowed to sell tobacco from Jan 22, 2016, to Jul 21, 2016, while H.R Frozen Food and Trading’s suspension is from Mar 2, 2016, to Sep 1, 2016.

HSA said this was the outlets’ first offence. One of the sellers was an employee, while the other was a co-owner of the retail store. “Both sellers had failed to check the age of the minors before selling tobacco products to them.”

They were apprehended via HSA’s ground surveillance and enforcement activities to deter the illegal sale of tobacco products to minors, the authority said.

HSA said that those caught selling tobacco products to persons below the age of 18 are liable to a maximum S$5,000 fine for a first offence and up to S$10,000 for a second or subsequent offence.

It added that the tobacco retail licence will be suspended for six months for the first offence and revoked for the second offence. However, if any outlet is found selling tobacco products to minors under 18 and wearing school uniform or below 12 years old, the licence will be revoked, even if it is the first offence.

In the last three years, HSA has suspended 25 tobacco retail licences and revoked 21 of them, it said.

Ban on display of tobacco products from 2017

Retailers will have to keep tobacco products out of sight from next year, following changes to the law approved by Parliament yesterday.

These products include cigarettes, cigars, beedies and “ang hoon”, or loose tobacco leaves.

The ban on the display of such products is intended to prevent impulse buys, especially among young people who have not yet picked up smoking.

However, specialist tobacco shops, such as those that sell cigars, simply need to make sure that their products cannot be seen from outside the shop.

Duty-free shops at Changi Airport will be exempt from the ban for now, while those at seaports will be subject to rules similar to those for specialist tobacco sellers.

Tighter rules on online tobacco advertisements – such as banning ads from Singapore even if they do not target Singaporeans – were also introduced.

Views sought to raise minimum smoking age to 21

SINGAPORE – To delay smoking initiation among youths, the Health Promotion Board (HPB), together with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Health Sciences Authority (HSA), is seeking the public’s views on whether it should prevent people from buying tobacco until they are 21 years old.

If the measure is passed, this will raise the minimum legal age for the purchase, possession and use of tobacco in Singapore from 18 to 21.

The HPB first said last May that it was studying raising the legal age for smoking. It followed an earlier proposal by non-profit organisation Sata CommHealth, which said increasing it to 21 would deter young men from picking up smoking during National Service.

This is part of the strategies the Board is considering to achieve its aim of reducing Singapore’s smoking prevalence rate to 12 per cent by 2020.

The nation’s smoking rate has been steadily decreasing, from 18.3 per cent in 1992 to 13.3 per cent in 2013. Singapore has one of the lowest smoking rates in the world, HPB said today (Dec 29), citing a report by World Health Organisation (WHO).

As a rationale for raising the minimum legal age for purchase of tobacco, the HPB quoted a 2008 WHO report on how persons who do not start smoking before the age of 21 are unlikely to ever begin. HPB added that other studies have shown that young persons who start smoking early are likely to continue smoking into adulthood.

Other tobacco control measures it is looking to implement include reducing the appeal of tobacco products through standardised packaging without any promotional information like trademarks, logos, colour schemes and imagery.

The HPB also recommends increasing the size of graphic health warnings to occupy more than 50 per cent of the tobacco packaging and replacing images on such warnings every two to three years to increase its effectiveness.

The HPB would also like to seek views on the restriction of the sale of tobacco products that have a flavour. Flavours can include menthol as well as fruit and candy flavours.

The public consultation will be held for a period of 12 weeks from today to March 29 next year.

Singapore currently adopts a multi-pronged approach to drive down its smoking prevalence, HPB said.

This includes a wide range of strategies such as legislation, which includes restrictions on tobacco advertising and smoking prohibitions in public places, public education, the provision of smoking cessation services and taxation.

Ban on smokeless cigarettes kicks in

Smokeless cigarettes have officially been banned island-wide.

The ban, which comes into effect today, covers emerging tobacco products “currently not available in Singapore”, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) in a statement yesterday.

Other products that were also banned include dissolvable tobacco and products containing tobacco or nicotine that may be applied topically, injected or implanted in the body.

It will also include any tobacco or nicotine-containing substances meant to be used in e-cigarettes.

The ban was first announced in June this year and is part of MOH’s “ongoing efforts to protect the public against the known and potential harms of emerging tobacco products”.

These products join e-cigarettes, which have already been banned under the Tobacco Act.

The new ban is to “ensure that they do not gain a foothold or become entrenched in the Singapore market, which could stimulate demand for and increase the prevalence of tobacco consumption”, said MOH.

The ban that comes into effect today is part of a two-phase effort to bar such products from taking root in Singapore.

The second phase of the ban, which covers products already in the local market, will kick in from August next year.

The products that will be banned include nasal and oral snuff, which are smokeless forms of tobacco that are inhaled and chewed respectively; gutkha, which is a mix of tobacco, betel nut and catechu (herb) with lime, menthol, sandal oil, spice and flavourings; and khaini and zarda, which are flavoured chewing tobaccos.

MOH said this approach will give retailers time to “adjust their operating models away from such products, and deplete their existing stocks”.

Smokers who flout the ban can be fined up to S$10,000 or jailed up to six months or both. The maximum penalties will double if they are convicted for a second time.

Singapore: Display ban from 2017

The Ministry of Health plans to outlaw displays of tobacco products in retail outlets from 2017, according to Channel NewsAsia.

A standardised, text-only price list for tobacco products may be allowed to promote a level playing field, the website reported. Amendments to the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act will be tabled in Parliament.

Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor reportedly promised the government would work with retailers to reduce inconveniences caused by the switch.

Regulate but don’t ban e-cigarettes, expert tells Singapore–expert-tells-singapore-104914521.html

Regulating electronic cigarettes is a better option than banning them due to the potential benefits for smokers who are looking to quit their habit, according to a UK expert.

Heneage Mitchell, founder of survey site, was giving his views to Yahoo Singapore about the upcoming ban on the use of e-cigarettes in Singapore after attending a summit in London.

The ban on e-cigarettes, which produce vapour for users to inhale, takes effect on 15 December. Also known as personal vaporisers or electronic nicotine delivery systems, e-cigarettes come in a large variety of flavours (also referred to as juices) and often contain nicotine. The act of using e-cigarettes is commonly referred to as “vaping”.

Mitchell said the Singapore government should instead regulate e-cigarettes to ensure that they are safe to use.

“The government has denied access to a product that is scientifically proven to be much safer than a legal product. To me, that doesn’t make sense.”

Mitchell, who was the former managing editor of Tobacco Asia, added, “They [the government] need to take a step back and ask what are our long term health goals, and it’s definitely to reduce death and disease associated with smoking.”

The e-cigarette summit on 12 November saw university researchers coming together to unveil their survey findings related to e-cigarettes.

Since Singapore banned the import, sale and distribution of e-cigarettes on 28 November 2014, many Singapore smokers have flocked across the Causeway to get their vaping fix. While the products are not banned in Malaysia – the local industry was worth US$639 million in 2014, according to a report by Channel NewsAsia – the authorities are cracking down on juices that contain nicotine.

Many smokers see vaping as effective in helping them to curb or quit the habit, mainly due to the absence of harmful tobacco and smoke in e-cigarettes. The UK’s Public Health Department released survey findings in August this year stating that e-cigarettes are around 95 per cent less harmful than tobacco.

In a joint statement released previously, Singapore’s Ministry of Health, Health Sciences Authority and Health Promotion Board said, “We are aware that e-cigarettes have been marketed as a safer alternative to standard cigarettes or as an effective smoking cessation device. We remain cautious as there is no conclusive scientific evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of e-cigarettes in helping smokers quit tobacco use.

”E-cigarettes could potentially be a gateway to developing a smoking habit, particularly among the young.”

Concern with unregulated e-cigarette juices in Malaysia

While it’s not difficult to manufacture e-cigarette juices, Mitchell said that smokers should be getting the support from their respective governments so that they can buy products that are safe to use.

During the interview, Mitchell also showed images of an e-cigarette store that he recently visited in Malaysia. The images showed several shelves that were fully stocked with bottles of unregulated juices.

“Unbelievable, it’s totally unregulated. There’s just dozens and dozens of these wholesalers, and all of them had two, three, four people buying chunks of juice… they had no idea what’s in them,” he said.

The ingredients of juices are typically water, propylene glycol, vegetable glycol, and pharmaceutical-grade nicotine, and food grade flavor, and they are easy to make, Mitchell pointed out.

How other countries regulate e-cigarettes

Authorities from around the world have different ways of regulating e-cigarettes.

South Korea taxes e-cigarettes, which are categorised as tobacco products. A milliliter of liquid nicotine is taxed at the same rate as a box of tobacco.

Australia categorises nicotine as poison if not used for therapeutic purposes. E-cigarettes without nicotine are categorised as consumer products.

A full list of countries and their e-cigarette regulations, which was revealed at the summit, is available .

Plain Packaging – International Overview

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Banned e-smoking devices sold online

Users’ identity not needed to buy vaporisers, e-liquids from sites like Carousell, Gumtree

SINGAPORE – Electronic smoking devices including e-cigarettes are banned in Singapore, but sellers have found a way around the law by hawking them in cyberspace.

Young people, including teens below 18, are finding it easier to find such battery-run devices, which heat up a chemical, called an e-liquid, and turn it into vapour.

Also called “vaping” devices – as vapours are inhaled – these vaporisers and e-liquids can be obtained from online marketplaces like Carousell, Gumtree and Qoo10, as well as social media like Instagram and online forums here.

On Carousell, there are more than 30 such posts daily, with most selling e-liquids under vague search terms like “juice”. E-liquid refills, sold for about $13 for a 10ml bottle and $25 for a 30ml bottle, come in flavours including bandung, root beer float and caramel macchiato, and may be laced with nicotine.

Vaping starter sets are also sold on Carousell for about $170 each.

After a deal is made, the listing would be deleted immediately.

Sellers on Carousell said they rely on the platform for fast deals, and it does not require users to reveal their identity. Their customers range from those in their mid-teens to people in their 50s.

One seller who did not give his name started selling vaporisers a year ago, but moved on to e-liquids “to help regulars continue their vaping lifestyle”.

He has been “vape smoking” for the past three years and said the activity is growing in popularity here.

According to the Health Sciences Authority (HSA), there were more than 15,000 cases involving people bringing vaporisers, which include electronic cigarettes, cigars and pipes, into Singapore illegally between 2012 and September this year. In the same period, 39 peddlers were caught for selling vaporisers here.

HSA said the vaporisers were found in parcels mostly ordered online, and on people entering Singapore. The Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act here prohibits the import, distribution, sale or offer for sale of any item designed to resemble a tobacco product, including vaporisers.

Buying e-cigarettes from overseas websites or bringing them into the country in hand luggage is also considered importing.

Offenders may be fined up to $5,000 for the first offence, and up to $10,000 subsequently.

Veteran lawyer Amolat Singh said the owners and operators of the online sites can be charged with “aiding and abetting” the offences under the Tobacco Act.

“In a sense, it is no different from allowing someone to sell something illegal in one corner of one’s shop,” he said.

The online marketplaces said they are monitoring the situation.

Gumtree told The Straits Times that sellers who put up prohibited items for sale will be warned.

Those who continue to flout the rules will be banned and blocked.

“Sellers often try to find ways to work around our defences. We… will continue to update our filters to better clean our site,” said a Gumtree spokesman.


Carousell said it works very closely with regulatory and enforcement agencies to identify prohibited products.

It also encourages users to flag products and sellers who do not abide by its guidelines.

There is a sizeable group of vaporiser users here, going by an online e-cigarette forum for people in Singapore, which has more than 200,000 registered members.

Users say the lack of a foul smell is a draw.

“My fingers no longer stink and I can confidently hold my loved ones,” said a 28-year-old man.

Said the seller on Carousell of his customers: “Vaping helps smokers transit away from smoking traditional cigarettes, and all of my regulars have no intentions of reverting to smoking.”

But Dr Wong Seng Weng, medical director of The Cancer Centre, said e-cigarette users are exposed to nicotine, which is addictive, as well as heated and aerosolised propylene glycol and glycerol, which may turn into carcinogens.

In a joint statement, HSA and the Health Promotion Board advise the public “against using vaporisers to quit smoking or reduce their nicotine addiction”.

They cited a report by the World Health Organisation last year that said vaporisers can contain cancer-causing agents and toxicants and, in some cases, as much as those in conventional cigarettes.

They advised quitters to join the iQuit club at

Tobacco licence for 7-Eleven shop revoked

The 7-Eleven store at Cineleisure Orchard has been permanently barred from selling cigarettes and other tobacco products – the first time that such action has been taken against an outlet of the major chain of convenience stores.

The outlet’s licence was revoked by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) on July 31 after an employee was caught selling cigarettes to a minor on Nov 16, 2013 – the second time this occurred at that particular outlet. It was first suspended for six months in 2011 for selling cigarettes to someone under 18 years old.

In a statement yesterday, the HSA said: “Despite its previous conviction, the outlet continued to commit the offence… It will no longer be allowed to sell tobacco products.”

It added that the time lag between the discovery of the errant act and the licence being revoked was on account of the thorough investigations that had to be undertaken.

The Straits Times also understands that the 7-Eleven franchisee had made several appeals against the decision.

Four other retailers – Hwa Soon Heng Mini-Supermarket in Yishun, Tastebud Foodcourt in Queen Street, J Plus Ten Mini Mart in Bukit Batok West, and Nice Minimart in Tampines – were caught in HSA’s enforcement actions from November 2013 to August last year.

Their tobacco retail licences were suspended for six months as they were first-time offenders.

When contacted, 7-Eleven said the employee who had sold the packet of cigarettes to the minor has been sacked. A warning letter was also sent to the franchisee for failing to comply with regulations.

An auto-prompt system has also been rolled out at 7-Eleven’s more than 450 outlets here. Now, when a cigarette packet is scanned at the point-of-sale, staff have to check the customer’s identification card and key in his date of birth.

“If there is no birth date typed into the system, the sale cannot be made,” said a 7-Eleven spokesman. “We want to prevent future lapses.”

The system came about after a review of operating procedures following the 2013 incident. Tobacco sales make up a “significant portion” of revenue at the Cineleisure outlet, she added.

In the last three years, 39 tobacco retail licences have been suspended and 18 revoked.

The HSA reminded tobacco retailers that they are responsible for all transactions taking place at their outlets, as well as for their staff’s actions.

It also reminded licensees to educate sellers to check the age of those who wish to buy tobacco products.

Under the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act, anyone caught selling tobacco products to persons below the age of 18 can be fined up to $5,000 for the first offence and up to $10,000 for subsequent offences.

The retailer’s tobacco licence will be suspended for six months for the first offence and revoked for the second. But if any outlet is found to have sold such products to minors in school uniform or those below 12 years old, their licence will be revoked at the first offence.

The HSA also encourages anyone with information on the illegal sales of tobacco products to minors to call the Tobacco Regulation Branch on 6684-2036 or 6684-2037 during office hours.