SINGAPORE: The authorities have cracked down on those found with vapes at the end of 2023 and the start of 2024, with hundreds being fined after being found with e-vaporisers in several operations in December. Amid these actions, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s estranged younger brother, Lee Hsien Yang, has called on the Government to lift its ban on e-cigarettes.

In response to a crackdown in early December at Zoukout, Mr Lee Hsien Yang wrote on Facebook on 8 Dec: “Singapore should lift the ban e-cigarettes. The benefits that would accrue from regulated use of e-cigarettes outweigh the potential risks involved.”

He said, “The evidence that vaping is far less harmful than smoking cigarettes is well documented and accepted. It is far better to regulate vaping and impose safety standards. We should permit vaping for people trying to quit smoking. To dogmatically retain the existing regulations is simply bad public policy.”

In a subsequent Facebook post on 17 Dec, the youngest son of founding PM Lee Kuan Yew shared a screenshot of a UK webpage, supporting his view that vaping may be substantially less harmful than smoking.

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Mr Lee, who is a member of the Progress Singapore Party, said: “I am not an expert. Experts in the UK have found based on international evidence, that while vaping is not risk free, “in the short to medium term, vaping poses a small fraction of the risks of smoking.””

While some observers online agreed with Mr Lee’s assessment of the issue and supported his call, others suggested that the primary concern might be the increasing number of non-smokers embracing vaping rather than smokers making the transition.

These critics argued that although switching from smoking to vaping may be considered an improvement, the rise in vaping adoption among non-smokers, particularly among youths and young adults, could be detrimental to society.

The Government, meanwhile, has continued its clampdown against vaping. The authorities have stepped up enforcement at border checkpoints and announced yesterday (4 Jan) that 177 individuals were arrested in a multi-day operation at Changi Airport in late December after arriving in Singapore possessing e-vaporisers.

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The Health Sciences Authority and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority plan to continue conducting operations at land and sea checkpoints in the coming months.

The enforcement against e-vaporiser possession and use has also been intensified within the community, with schools and institutes of higher learning enhancing their detection and enforcement measures against vaping.

Complementary actions include enhancing online surveillance to detect and remove sales and advertisements related to e-vaporisers.

The possession, use or purchase of e-vaporisers carries a hefty maximum fine of S$2,000.

It is also deemed an offence to import, distribute, sell, or offer for sale e-vaporisers and their components, and those found guilty of such an offence are subject to a fine of up to S$10,000, a potential jail term of up to six months, or a combination of both for the first offence.

For repeat offenders, the penalties become even more severe.

Subsequent convictions may result in fines escalating up to S$20,000, a possible jail term extending to 12 months, or a combination of both.

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All tobacco items that fall under the prohibited category will be confiscated and seized as part of the enforcement measures.