Ministry of Health rejects tobacco ban, considers registration of smokers
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The Ministry of Health announced today that it does not support the recent call by National Cancer Centre to ban tobacco use, but is considering registration of all smokers as a means to reduce the healthcare cost from smoking-related diseases.
Mr See Ker Lett, spokesman for the ministry, told Straight Times this at a press conference today.
‘It is unrealistic and impractical for Singapore to ban smoking in this era of globalisation. The government’s anti-smoking strategy has always been one of health education and protecting non-smokers from second-hand smoke. However, the decision to take up or to stop smoking must remain a personal choice. As such, the ministry is now considering making smokers take personal responsibility for the harmful effects of smoking. We are now looking at withdrawing the medical subsidy for smokers when they are treated or admitted for conditions known to be associated with tobacco use.’
Smoking is known to cause heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.
‘Under this scheme, smokers will be required to show their identity cards and have their personal particulars recorded when purchasing cigarettes and tobacco. This information will be stored in a central registry that may be accessed by all restructured hospitals and government polyclinics.’
Mr See assured Singaporeans that the information will not prejudice smokers in terms of their medical treatment, but only have a bearing on the medical subsidy.
When asked if this scheme discriminates against and penalises smokers, Mr See replied:
‘Certainly it discriminates, but it does not penalise; rather, I think we should see this scheme as rectifying a situation where non-smoking tax-payers are forced to subsidise the lifestyle choice of smokers.’
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