A common joke going around the international community is: Singapore is a FINE country. There are fines for everything, including grafitti, eating and drinking in public transport, littering and illegal parking. Nothing quite defines Singapore, though, like the way they try to clamp down on smoking.

Smoking in Singapore is prohibited in most air-conditioned areas and also in public buses, taxis, lifts, cinemas, concert halls, some restaurants, government offices, shopping centres as well as in ticket and taxi queues. Whew.

First-time offenders pay a fine of $1,000, and that includes non-Singaporeans.

And if that wasn't discouraging enough, the price of a pack of cigarettes is relatively high (sometimes almost US$4 for 20 sticks - compared to US$2 in neighbouring Malaysia), as tobacco tax has been US$120 per kilogram since 1991.

And yet, amazingly, smoking's actually rather prevalent in this small island city-state. In 2001, a survey found smokers to come from all age groups, races and genders, but most were male, Malay and between the ages of 18 to 24.

Many attribute it to the pressures of a fast-paced lifestyle built on the foundations of money-making and climbing the corporate ladder. Others blame the lack of proper upbringing in many Singaporean youth, who turn to peers for companionship and are led astray. Still others accuse the country's conscription act (appropriately termed National Service) of influencing many impressionable young men to pick up this habit.

These youth are fast becoming a concern. A youth tobacco survey of over ten thousand students aged 13 to 16 found that at least 26% had tried smoking before, with 2.4% already chain smoking.

The Singaporean government has been monitoring this situation for years and its Ministry of Health has come up with one campaign after another (Singapore's famous for its campaigns) to discourage smoking. The latest attempt is the National Smoking Control Campaign or NSCC 2002 (Singapore's also famous for it's liberal use of acronyms), which hopes to promote a healthier lifestyle among Singaporeans with their theme "Stay Free".

But as any cynical Singaporean might tell you, the law would never ban cigarettes (like the way it's banned chewing gum), because there's just too much revenue in tobacco taxes and fines. There's no beating the Singapore government. They've thought of everything!

Information obtained from:
Singapore Health Promotion Board: http://hpb.gov.sg/
Singapore Youth Tobacco Survey 2000: http://app.hpb.gov.sg/pro/pro0203.asp

See Everything Quests - Smoking

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