Retailers have strongly objected to a proposal to ban the sale of flavoured tobacco products such as menthol cigarettes, as it could hit their businesses hard.
A survey of 1,475 independent general trade retailers by a group of trade associations — such as the Foochow Coffee Restaurant & Bar Merchants Association and Singapore Mini Mart Association — found that 99 per cent of the respondents stated that such a prohibition would negatively affect their business, while 97 per cent were concerned that the move could lead adult smokers to turn to illegal sources.
The proposed ban was among a suite of tobacco-control measures — which also included raising the minimum legal age for smoking and enhancing graphic health warnings — put up for public consultation early this year by the Health Promotion Board, the Ministry of Health, and the Health Sciences Authority.
Pointing to how some stores had closed after they were badly affected by the new liquor laws, which started last year, Mr Hong Poh Hin, who chairs the Foochow Coffee Restaurant & Bar Merchants Association, said: “It is important to ensure any proposed tobacco-control measures are supported by evidence of effectiveness in reducing smoking incidence in Singapore, while addressing the impact on the affected retailers.”
“Our members, many of which are small- and medium-enterprises, have been bearing the brunt of escalating operating costs, manpower constraints and a flurry of increasing regulations that directly impacted their biggest sources of income,” he added.
Among other things, the new laws bar supermarkets and convenience stalls from selling takeaway alcohol from 10.30pm to 7am.
“We fear that such recurrent regulations will lead many more to shut down their businesses. This prompted our associations to launch this (survey),” Mr Hong added.
Other associations involved in the survey were Kheng Keow Coffee Merchants Restaurant and Bar-Owners Association, and Singapore Provision Shop Friendly Association.
Ninety-eight per cent of those surveyed said almost half of their customers who buy tobacco products only request the flavoured variants. The survey, which was conducted between July and September, also uncovered concerns that adult smokers would turn to illegal sources to have a puff.
Noting that the illicit cigarette trade is “substantial” here, Singapore Mini Mart Association chair Alan Tay said: “These illegal activities have a huge adverse impact on legitimate traders like us, that operate within the parameters of the law.”
The trade associations are also in the midst of another study on the efficacy and impact on trade of the proposed ban on flavoured tobacco products, and plan to share its results with the Government. KELLY NG