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Alternative tobacco products in Singapore and you: What are the effects?

A new ban on some forms of tobacco in Singapore has lead some to question what the Ministry of Health has against e-cigarettes. Here, Pacific Prime Singapore investigates the issue and highlights each side of the arguments for and against alternative tobacco products in Singapore. Read on to find out more!

Posted on Dec 16, 2015 by Travis Jones

A change has just recently occurred in Singapore that separates itself from many other countries around the world. As of December 15th, 2015 it is no longer legal to use e-cigarettes or other alternative tobacco products in the city-state. For those of us who are smokers, this may raise the question, “Why?” as having additional options for obtaining nicotine, especially ones with purportedly beneficial features, would seem like a good thing overall. Here, Pacific Prime Singapore examines the issue, and highlights the pros and cons of each side.


The situation

As it happens, many of the devices counted as alternative tobacco products that are becoming common in countries around the world are not currently available in Singapore. With that said, the nation is still taking steps to make sure that “they do not gain a foothold or become entrenched in the Singapore market”, the Ministry of Health stated on December 14th. This pre-emptive action, as it is explained, is not meant to prevent these types of products from entering the market in order to protect existing tobacco companies and their current offerings, but rather in order to prevent stimulation of demand for tobacco products in general.

December 15th was only the first phase of the new ban too.  This phase includes the banning of the following types of tobacco products:

  • Any substance or solution , containing nicotine or tobacco, that can be used with e-cigarettes.

  • Any item containing tobacco or nicotine that is meant to be injected into, implanted in or applied topically to any body part.

  • Dissolvable nicotine or tobacco.

  • Smokeless cigarettes, smokeless cigarillos or smokeless cigars.

The second phase will be implemented starting on August 1st, 2016 and will feature the banning of the following items:

  • Flavored chewing tobaccos known as zarda and khaini.

  • A mix of catechu (herb), betel nut and tobacco with spices, sandal oil, menthol, lime and other flavorings known as gutkha.

  • Oral snuff

  • Nasal snuff

So for now the items under the second phase won’t be subject to the penalties related to the new tobacco bans. Meanwhile, the penalty for possession of the phase one items will be subject to a fine of S$10,000 for first offenders, or even imprisonment for a maximum of 6 months, or both. After the first offense, penalties are doubled, so it’s easy to see that the government takes these bans seriously, but is their focus misplaced? Critics might wonder why cigarettes are not on the banning block, as well as whether or not the banned products might actually be a healthier alternative to traditional forms of smoking.


The facts on cigarettes vs. alternative tobacco

Are e-cigarettes safer than normal tobacco? At this point in time, the devices are so new that it really depends on who you ask. Even popular medical websites such as WebMD state that nobody knows for sure just how safe electronic cigarettes are, as there is much research left to be done relating to this topic. There are studies that have been released, however, that do point to e-cigarettes being safer than their non-electronic kin.

One thing is for sure, the nicotine in e-cigarettes is just as addictive as that found in cigarettes. This leads many, like those at the Ministry of Health that are imposing the ban, to conclude that allowing such new forms of tobacco and nicotine could spur a new wave of smokers to develop. In this way e-cigarettes and the other banned items could act as a gateway to smoking cigarettes, or simply to a lifetime of addiction. This is the impetus behind the ban.

On the other side are studies, such as one released by UK government body Public Health England, that find that the health risks associated with e-cigarettes are far lower than those posed by cigarettes, small cigars, pipes or cigars. The Public Health England report even went so far as to claim that “e-cigarettes are about 95% less harmful than tobacco cigarettes…” This leads some to expound that tobacco alternatives like e-cigarettes should not be banned at all, but rather be used as aids for tobacco users to reduce their addiction and/or risks associated with tobacco use. For now, though, it seems that the Ministry Of Health disagrees.

The bottom line is that tobacco and nicotine are likely bad for you, to varying degrees, no matter what form you ingest them in. Not only due to both their short and long term impact on health, but also because of the addictive effect that keeps you coming back for more. Those in Singapore that choose to smoke must realize that they are putting their future health in jeopardy, and thus it is essential to have a high quality health insurance plan to address any problems that may develop later in life. Those with existing insurance plans or with access to government subsidized healthcare will want to make sure that they have enough coverage to pay for treatment of lung cancer, emphysema, or other conditions commonly associated with smoking.  

If this is a concern of yours, please contact one of the knowledgeable agents at Pacific Prime Singapore today for a free plan comparison and price quotation.

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