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Public Consultation to Kick-start Discussion on Strengthening Singapore’s Tobacco Control Measures

New initiatives such as 28 Day Countdown and targeted workplace smoking cessation programme introduced to help smokers quit

Singapore, 1 June: The National Smoking Control Campaign 2013 sees a strengthened tobacco control programme involving a combination of policy and community outreach efforts to encourage smokers to stub out their cigarettes for good.
  1. Although Singapore has one of the lowest smoking prevalence in the world, the incidence of adult smoking in Singapore has risen from 12.6 per cent in 2004 to 14.3 per cent in 2010. This trend underscores the need for renewed tobacco control efforts to tackle the single most preventable cause of death in the world today.

Public Consultation on Tobacco Control Measures

  1. In line with the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control guidelines, which identifies the point-of sale (POS) display as a promotional tool that should be prohibited as part of a comprehensive mix of tobacco control strategies, the Ministry of Health (MOH) is currently looking into the feasibility of removing tobacco products within plain sight at shops and have them stored in areas that are not fully visible such as in closed drawers. Customers who want to buy these products would therefore need to specifically ask retailers for them. The aim of the measure is to decrease the exposure of smokers and non-smokers to the advertising effects of tobacco products and ultimately denormalise tobacco use.
  2. Said Health Minister Mr Gan Kim Yong: “The proposed POS display ban aims to protect the public especially the youth and young adults from tobacco advertising. In will also help to reduce impulse purchases of tobacco products and provide a more conducive environment for smokers who are trying to quit. The MOH and HPB are inviting members of the public to help strengthen our current tobacco control efforts by providing their comments and views on the local tobacco control measures, including the proposed POS display ban”.
  3. The public consultation will run from 1 June till 30 June 2013.

I Quit 28-Day Countdown

  1. Smokers often consider the journey towards being smoke-free to be a daunting one. Studies have shown that it takes a smoker an average of six to seven attempts before they can successfully quit smoking. With support from their loved ones and professional assistance from healthcare workers such as Quit Consultants, a smoker is more likely not only to quit but to remain smoke-free. With this in mind, HPB has introduced the nation-wide challenge entitled, ‘I Quit 28-Day Countdown’. The challenge was conceptualised based on findings that smokers who stay smoke-free for 28 days are five times more likely to quit smoking for good2.
  2. “Through ‘I Quit 28-Day Countdown’, we are addressing this seemingly insurmountable challenge by breaking it down into actionable steps to help empower smokers with the knowledge and support to remain smoke-free throughout the crucial first 28 days. With additional support from the community and Quit Consultants, we are helping smokers increase their chances of successfully quitting the habit,” said Mr Zee Yoong Kang, CEO, Health Promotion Board (HPB).
  3. Starting on 1 June, the Countdown aims to encourage smokers to make a personal pledge to stay smoke-free for 28 days with the support of counselling via HPB’s QuitLine and I Quit Club Facebook community page. Timely SMS reminders and tips to stay smoke-free will be sent to participants on a regular basis to motivate them throughout the 28 days. Pharmacies such as Guardian, Watsons and Unity will also offer free smoking cessation consultations to participants of the Countdown. Beyond the 28 days, participants who resolve to remain smoke-free will continue to receive support as they work towards quitting the habit for good.
  4. To date, 1624 smokers have pledged to remain smoke free for 28 days. To sign up for the Countdown, smokers need only to SMS “IQuit” <space> “Name” to 76333.

Workplace Smoking Cessation Programmes

  1. The National Health Survey 2010 showed that 16.1 per cent of working adults smoke; and according to a survey by HPB and Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) in 2012, 31.5 per cent of hotel employees are smokers. Considering this comparatively high prevalence of smoking, the hotel industry is a natural starting point for HPB’s targeted smoking cessation programmes.
  2. “There is a strong need for tobacco control initiatives to directly address key target groups such as those within the hotel industry. By working with partners like SNEF, we are spearheading voluntary ground-up anti-smoking advocacy efforts whilst working towards sustained long-term reduction in the smoking prevalence of employees within the hotel industry. Survey results show that 75 per cent of the hotels polled feel that they will benefit from being 100 per cent smoke-free. Specifically, the industry will be able to benefit from improved productivity and reduced absenteeism due to improvements in the health of the employees, a decrease in medical costs, and savings on maintenance and cleaning costs around the hotel,” said Mr Zee Yoong Kang.
  3. Hotels like Capri by Fraser have already implemented smoke-free policies under HPB’s Blue Ribbon Smoke-free Movement. In an effort to create a supportive environment for its employees and guests, the hotel has removed all smoking areas and only has 100% smoke-free rooms and has implemented smoke-free policies such as no smoking in uniform for employees. It is now working with HPB to provide a smoking cessation programme, as part of the 28-Day Countdown, to help employees who are smokers quit the habit for good. The programme offers both onsite counselling via quit counsellors and offsite support via Quit Line. Leveraging on the partnership with Capri by Fraser, talks are also currently underway to extend the programme to retail tenants located within Changi City Point; further extending the availability of the programme to smokers located within the area.
  4. HPB aims to reduce the national smoking prevalence to less than 10 per cent by 2020. To do so, an estimated 15,000 smokers (mostly working adults) need to successfully quit smoking each year. Therefore, workplaces are an important conduit to reach the smokers with targeted smoking cessation interventions to help them quit more effectively.
  5. In addition to our policy and community outreach, we are also helping to create a tobacco-free environment. More than four hundred tobacco retailers including supermarket chains like Cold Storage, Giant, Sheng Siong and NTUC Fairprice have joined in the fight against tobacco use in support of World No Tobacco Day this year by voluntarily not selling tobacco products on 31 May.

Issued by Health Promotion Board