Senior Minister of State for Health Balaji Sadasivan says a complete ban on smoking in Singapore has to be considered carefully as it may cause unintended problems.He was responding to recent calls for such a ban when he spoke at the 7th Singapore Stroke Conference.To help stub out the smoking habit, the government has smoking cessation programmes and made cigarettes more expensive and unavailable to the young.Just recently, smoking in public areas like bus interchanges and swimming complexes was banned.Now, there are calls for a complete ban -- from people like neurologist Dr Ramani.He said up to a quarter of all strokes are caused by smoking - and stroke is Singapore's fourth leading cause of death.But Dr Balaji said a total ban raises other issues.He said: "A total ban on cigarettes may cause unintended problems. Banning may increase the illegal trade and smuggling of cigarettes, as happened to alcohol during the prohibition in the US."Tourists may shy away from coming to Singapore. Hence, a total ban on cigarettes in Singapore is a measure which we will have to consider very carefully."Although he hasn't ruled it out for now, the Ministry will be continuing its anti-smoking efforts."I hear Dr Balaji's comments. While I am a little disappointed that we are not going to ban it straight away, I am happy the Ministry is considering it. I think we are in sync," said Dr Ramani, a neurologist at the National Neuroscience Institute.In fact, Dr Balaji said that in time to come, it might not even be necessary to have a smoking ban as the Ministry aims to cut down the number of new smokers to zero.He did not give a time frame for this.The Ministry also aims to reduce the number of existing smokers.
As a non-smoker, I am personally in total favour of banning cigarettes, though I can already hear the howls of outrage from smokers all over Singapore. The smoking issue can be rather tricky for nations to handle. New Delhi has given out a controversial ban on depiction of smoking in films, for example, which even I have protest on grounds of freedom of expression, though I am against films which glamourise smoking.
On one hand is the proven facts about what smoking does to you, and not to mention what it does to others around you. On the other hand is things like freedom of choice, and obviously, the revenue from tobacco. Personally, I don't think the real reason that smoking is not banned yet is because of tourists, or the possiblity of underground smuggling, but the loss of revenue from tobacco, especially considering the raised price of packets.
22 Oct 2005
Posted by pleinelune at 10/22/2005 11:41:00 pm