Chewing Gum in Singapore is A Crime! Here's How it All Began

Legally, you can own a gun, buy a sword, and even marry your cousin in the Lion City. But hey, chewing gum in Singapore would attract a steep fine. The Singapore chewing gum law is among the most well-known laws in the world and has attracted a lot of international media attention. It first came to light in the 1990s and is prominent in the present times as well. Thanks to the Singapore-US Free Trade Agreement 2004, the rule is now a bit more lenient than before. Due to some of its health benefits, now you can purchase chewing gum in Singapore with a prescription from drug stores and even fly it abroad. 

Origin of Chewing Gum Ban in Singapore

Singapore Chewing Gum Ban

Banning Chewing Gum to Keep the City Clean
A city obsessed with cleanliness, the sole reason for introducing the Singapore chewing gum ban was to keep the city clean. Reports suggest that the Housing Development Board spends over USD 125,000 annually just to scrape off gum from sidewalks, train doors, bus seats, and more public spaces.

Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew
According to Singapore's first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, the Ministers of National Development approached him with the idea in 1980. Lee Kuan Yew believed that enforcing a ban on chewing gum in Singapore altogether would be an extreme step. So initially, the government started with banning chewing gum advertisements that promoted its consumption and sales. Even the opposition government deduced that the problem can be solved by levying fines on offenders and educating people in general.

Introduction of Singapore's Mass Rapid Transport
However, the issue still didn't resolve. After Singapore launched the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) that revolutionized transportation and modernized the city, gum stuck on train door sensors resulted in whole system malfunctioning and led to disturbances and delay in train services. This is when the chewing gum ban in Singapore was officially enforced.

As of today, chewing gum in Singapore stands banned alongside e-cigarettes, fireworks, purchasing alcohol post 10:30 PM, trading and owning exotic pets. 

Singapore's Chewing Gum Law

When the Singapore chewing gum ban was enforced in 1992, there were opinions that were for and against it. Some were relieved of the fact they won't have to face annoying issues like gum getting stuck to the bottom of their shoes or hands, while some believed that it was unfair to those who eat gum regularly, and also it took quite a toll on people whose job was to scrape gum off surfaces. This also reflected on an individual's freedom. "The government cannot have control over whether I can or can't chew gum. This is simply ridiculous," said one resident. On the other hand, another resident was quite happy with the fact that he won't have to see gum marks on his way to work. "The footpaths look a lot nicer now," he said.

Penalty for Chewing Gum in Singapore

Singapores chewing gum penalty
People still managed to get their hands on chewing gum in Singapore anyway (maybe from a chewing gum black market). The Singaporean government didn't stop them from doing so but also levied heavy fines (USD 100,000 or a prison sentence of up to two years) against those who were found selling it. The Singapore chewing gum penalty is very similar to the littering fines, where you get fined USD 500- USD 1000  on the first offence, and USD 2000 for the repeat offenders. 

The chewing gum ban in Singapore is less strict now than it initially was (the ban on the sale of chewing gum in Singapore is one of the most well-known international laws). After the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement was signed in 2004, chewing gum with health benefits such as nicotine gum and dental gum can be bought from pharmacies.

So, the next time you are in Singapore and have an urge to chew gum, try banana instead, as suggested by Lee Kuan Yew himself.

This post was published by Yash Saboo

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