Over the last 30 years, Singapore has rolled out a host of tobacco control measures. These include heavy taxation, control of tobacco sales and advertising, smoking prohibition in public places, smoking cessation services, point-of-sale display ban of tobacco products, and public education.
But the proportion of new smokers has gone up to replace those who have died from or quit the habit, suggesting more aggressive efforts are needed to stop people from picking up smoking.
Professor Chia Kee Seng, the Dean of Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, who also teaches at NUS Medicine, said that government policies alone are insufficient to combat the tobacco scourge, and that the community – both family members and social circles of smokers – plays a vital role in preventing youths from adopting the habit and helping smokers quit.
As two-thirds of Singaporeans work, the workplace is also a key setting for reaching smokers and providing the supportive social environment conducive for quitting smoking.
“Tobacco products, unlike other regulated consumer products such as alcohol, is deliberately designed to be addictive. There is no level of ‘safe’ or ‘harmless’ consumption, and the harmful effects affect others, and not just the smokers themselves,” said Prof Chia.
“We should move toward the aim of being a smoke-free nation, not compromise and settle for a smoke-lite nation.”