Tobacco Industry is Continuously Sinking in Singapore

Tobacco Industry

The market for tobacco products constitutes cigars, smoking tobacco (fine-cut and pipe tobacco), (filtered) cigarettes and cigarillos. Globally, the market revenue of the tobacco products industry is expected to grow by 3.3% annually (CAGR 2017-2021). In certain emerging markets with the rising tobacco consumption, the global tobacco products industry is generating higher revenue and profits in that region. However, Singaporean tobacco market is continuously declining since from many years. The current value of tobacco sales in retail has also been declined in 2018. By 2021, the tobacco industry is expected to amount to 165.9 thousand kg.

The top four transnational tobacco companies that are dominating the cigarette market in Singapore with more than 97% of market share are Philip Morris Singapore, British American Tobacco Singapore, Japan Tobacco International Singapore, and Imperial Tobacco Asia. In 2018, the number of shops tumbled to a new record in selling cigarettes and tobacco products and the figure could be further trimmed. In 2017, the retail outlets of tobacco were 4,764 based on the number of licences assigned by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA). Since 1998, the lowest number after introducing the government law that required all tobacco sellers to be licensed.

Minimum Age Regulations in the Tobacco Industry is Producing Mixed Results:

While in most of the Southeast Asia countries, the minimum age for cigarette purchase and consumption is 18 but Singapore increasing the age criteria of the tobacco purchase and consumption to 21 by 2021. Under the Tobacco Act, a minor is prohibited to possess, sell, offer, purchase directly and indirectly any kind of tobacco and possess for sale or permit to be sold or offered any tobacco product. Singapore had banned selling any tobacco product at any shops that indulge in any health-related products and those that offer youth-centric products or services, i.e. game arcades, confectionaries, candy, comic and toy stores, etc.

In Singapore, to make cigarettes less affordable, the country has prohibited the sale of cigarettes in loose sticks less than 20 sticks, any kind of sale of cigarettes and cigarillos. The increase of the minimum age may reduce the smoking rate among the young adult age group and contributing to both current and future decline in cigarette volume sales. The minimum smoker age enforcement has been the toughest challenge for the country despite having a reputation for tough enforcement. The shopkeeper who caught selling to underage smokers will lose their tobacco selling license notwithstanding the fact the Singaporean underage youth manage to find ways to circumvent the measures through tactics like a third-party purchase. This has been proved according to a National Health Surveillance Survey 2013, where the age of the average smoker in Singapore is 16 when they take their first puff, below the current legal smoking age.

Emerging Alternative Tobacco Industry Products:

The HPB and the Ministry of Health explained that it is a preventive measure to ban emerging tobacco products. Also, the Ministry of Health explained that this ban will help in preventing the future entry of the new emerging tobacco products in the country, which is not available in Singapore and will not gain a foot-hold or become entrenched. It could stimulate the demand for and increase the prevalence of tobacco consumption. Glancing at the exemptions in the legislation, the ban on such tobacco products will exclude all the tobacco-containing product, tobacco derivative, therapeutic products registered under the Health Products Act and medicinal product registered under the Medicines Act. It is still leaving a platform for such products, which is proven to have medical benefits to be exempted from the ban.

While assessing the salience of prohibition of alternative tobacco products must be exercised cautiously that should have yet to be scientifically proven to have any medical benefit towards supporting or aiding smoking cessation. Likewise, in this regard, extreme caution needed to be taken; especially when tobacco companies are entering the bandwagon to market electronic cigarettes as less harmful reduced risk tobacco products. It cannot be neglected that the tobacco industry has always been lying and manipulating the public to maintain its historical reputation, in order to maintain and gain profits ignoring the health consequences.

Illicit Trade in the Tobacco Industry is a Major Challenge for Singapore:

Despite various rules and regulations in Singapore, the illicit trade of tobacco is one of the major challenges for the Singaporean government. Illicit trading of tobacco is yet the problem which has not got any definite solutions for many years. The Singaporean government has to amend its rules and regulations for the tobacco industry to eliminate the illicit trading of the tobacco from the country. Although there have been neither such protocol nor any announcement towards such a move, but the government has enforced some elements of the protocol, such as licensing, tracking and tracing.

From 2012 to 2016, the average seized number of cigarette packs were 2.6 million annually. In 2014, 3 million packets were seized and it is the largest seizure of illegal cigarettes. With stringent border controls, the number of cigarettes seized increased by 2.8 million packs in 2016 from 1.5 million packs in 2012. Illicit trading in Singapore had seen a decrease in trend to 105 million sticks in 2016 from 129 million sticks in 2011. Singapore is progressively working towards full compliance to ban smoking in the country at public places over the past three decades. Stringent rules of the government are targeted to reduce smoking prevalence, especially amongst younger adults, contributed to reducing tobacco consumption.

Stringent Rules and Regulations in Singapore for Tobacco Industry:

The Smoking Act was enforced in 1992 and since then it has been amended 6 times to till date (2000, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2013, and 2014). In line with the Smoking Act, smoking was banned at all Singapore Airlines and Silk-Air flights, shops in town centres, underground pedestrian walkways, petrol stations, all air-conditioned shopping malls and complexes, compounds of all educational institutions, smoking in queues formed in any public area, including taxi queues and bus stands. However, Singapore Airlines and Silk-Air flights have designated smoke-free in accordance to the Smoking Act.

By 2020, the Singaporean government progressively working with the multi-pronged approach towards reducing smoking prevalence to 10% and expected decline contribution in the volume of all the tobacco industry product categories except cigars in the forecast period. In the forecasted period, plain packaging and the enlargement of graphic warnings continue to print on tobacco packaging is expected to continue in the tobacco industry. The ban and regulations are only effective if it curbs the smoking-attributable diseases, which has become a disease in high-income countries, or if it prevents the future generations from suffering such chronic diseases, which is associated with the smoking.

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