Smoking in Singapore: Smoking Can Kill, But in Singapore, It Can Empty Your Pockets
Smoking in Singapore has been banned in public places such as buses or theatres since 1970. But it is an interesting tale that leads up to why smoking has been banned in the Singapore MRT in 1987. In November of 1987, a fire broke at a station o the London Underground, the King’s Cross Pancras tube station, killing approximately 31 people and injuring another 100 or so. The inquiry that was held to determine the cause stated that the cause of the fire was a trench effect caused by a burning match being dropped at an escalator. The trench effect led to the fire getting caught on in the inclined escalator, eventually engulfing the entire station with its intensity. While in London, the wooden escalators gave way to the metal ones in due time, in Singapore this led to a ban in Singapore’s equivalent of London Underground, the Singapore MRT.
The Singapore government wants the city to be non-smoker friendly, and hence has progressively been extending and enforcing stricter laws on the ban on smoking in more and more public places. Following is a quick timeline of the places the ban has been extended to over the past several years:
- 1st July 2005: Bus crossings, public restrooms, public swimming
- 1st July 2006: Coffee shops, hawker centres
- 1st July 2007: Night entertainment places such as night clubs, discotheques, lounges, etc
- 1st January 2009: Open recreational areas for children or adults, ferry stations, jetties, non-AC office spaces in shops, factories, and within 5 metres of an entry or exit spot.
- 15th January 2013: Public residential areas, staircases, within 5 metres for bus stations and hospitals, overhead bridges.
- 1st January 2019: Along the Orchard Road shopping stretch.
All around the city, there are designated smoking spots within offices, food courts, educational institutions, and other open spaces, where one can stop and smoke. Even at places where smoking is prohibited, there may be certain exceptions, all in the interest of the larger public. However, if one is affiliated to a certain government office, then they aren’t allowed to smoke anywhere when on duty.
Fine for Smoking in Singapore at Restricted Places
- One can be fined a minimum of 200 SGD (Singaporean Dollars)
- If held guilty in court, the fine can be of up to a 1000 SGD. The concerned premise is fined 200 SGD for the 1st time around, and 500 SGD thereafter.
- There is a fine on cigarette butt littering as well
As of 1st February 2018, the possession or use of electronic cigarettes or vapes in Singapore if an offence. While smoking e-cigarettes, e-pipes or e-cigars can lead up to a fine of SGD 2,000, importing, buying online or shipping it, which has been illegal since 2016, can be fined up to SGD 10,000 or 6 months in jail, with a subsequent charge being a fine up to SGD 20,000 or 12 months in jail.
Taxes and Minimum Age To Purchase or Sell Tobacco
In order to make people quit smoking, excise tax has been hiked and stricter law and penalties have been passed. While the legally permissible minimum age to purchase or sell tobacco is 19, plans are underway to increase the same to 21 by 2021.
As a tourist, it is extremely important that one is cognizant of these laws and respects them. The government or the law-enforcement officers aren’t very sparing when it comes to enacting these laws. In a city as expensive as Singapore is, a tourist would certainly want to avoid paying such a high penalty for smoking and hence, should be more careful.