The Legal Smoking Age Will Rise To 21, But Millennials Tell Us Why It Will Only Affect Army Boys

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Legal Smoking Age To Increase

Youngsters, hide yo cigarettes hide yo lighters. The next time you light up a cigarette and take a puff, you might unknowingly be breaking the law.

In a bid to curb opportunities for youths in Singapore to smoke, the Government will raise the minimum legal age for smoking from 18 to 21 — but according to Millennials, it won’t make much of a difference, except to army boys.

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Reducing Smokers

Announcing the measure on Thursday (March 9) during a debate in Parliament, Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor said many smokers here pick up the habit before they turn 21, reported The Straits Times.

And according to a 2008 study by the World Health Organisation, few people start smoking after the age of 21 in most countries.

Adolescents are also more prone to nicotine addiction than adults, making it very difficult for them to quit once they’re hooked.

Nip It In The Bud

With this new rule, the Government aims to nip the problem in the bud by reducing the opportunities for youngsters under the age of 21 to smoke, thus eliminating the chances of them ever starting on smoking.

The new restriction will be phased in over the next couple of years — with those under the age of 21 barred from purchasing, using or being in possession of tobacco products.

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Well, if only things were that simple.

Army Boys Affected

One group of people who’ll bear the brunt of the looming restriction is Full-Time National Servicemen (NSFs).

Anyone who has gone through national service may be aware of how prevalent smoking is, whether in camp or outfield.

Smoking has always been a way for military commanders to forge stronger bonds with their men, or simply for one to relax with their buddies after a tough day.

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Apparently, a famous saying among reservists is: “Shooting is to kill enemies in the battlefield. Smoking is to kill time in camp.”

However, with the implementation of the new rule, it would technically be illegal for NSFs (majority of whom are between 18 and 21 years of age) to smoke in camp.

What People Say

The MustShareNews team got in touch with several young people, smokers and non-smokers alike, for their views regarding the new rule and the smoking situation in Singapore.

(Some names have been changed to protect the identity of the interviewees.)

Smokers

Those who smoke generally thought the restriction wouldn’t have much of an effect, since they and many others started smoking even before 18, which is the current age limit:

1. I started smoking when I was 14, but it was on and off lah. One of my best girl friends and brother smoked, so I just tried lor. Smoking is just a habit to accompany that short while of getting fresh air. It also helps me digest food better after eating haha!

To me, the people who start smoking when they’re older is due to networking/stress/social pressures, but they’re usually social smokers.

If someone wants to smoke, the legal age limit won’t stop them because they can always get a friend to buy cigarettes for them. It may just weed out the more ‘guai’ ones who will wait till 21 to smoke but isn’t that ironic — if you so ‘guai’ you won’t smoke what, no?

The age limit is quite useless as compared to really investing in educating kids from a young age.

Chevonne, 24

2. I started when I was 16 because of my friends and boyfriend at the time. I tried after my friends offered me a stick. To me, the new rule doesn’t really matter? Like even when I was 16 and the legal age limit was 18, it made no difference in my life.

– Kathleen, 24

3. I feel that the more the government tries to impose restrictions and bans on vices such as smoking, alcohol and drugs, the less effective it will be. People don’t like to feel constrained or suffocated, and it tends to lead to frustration with the authorities and disregard for such rules. I think for me personally, it doesn’t make much of a difference. If a person wants to pick up smoking, he or she will pick it up anyway, through whatever means.

I started smoking about a year ago, mainly out of curiosity really. Most of my peers were smokers anyway, so it didn’t come as that drastic of a change for me. I picked it up on my own though, not with the help of friends, as I didn’t want them to feel like they were responsible for making me smoke. It then became a coping mechanism of sorts for whenever I was dealing with stress and needed to calm down, or when I was going through emotional issues.

– Angie, 22

4. I think the rule will greatly affect guys serving national service. You see, when guys enlist into the army they’re around 18-20 years old? By raising the legal age limit for smoking to 21, they will no longer be allowed to smoke in camps or outfield.

A large number of army regulars smoke, and I do agree it is a great way to bond with them. I have some friends who picked up smoking in the army even though they swore ‘never to touch a cigarette’ all their lives.

– Ken, 21

Non-Smokers

Even non-smokers thought that the new rule won’t be very effective:

5. All my friends started smoking at 15. When there’s a will there’s a way. There are so many underaged smokers anyway; people will always find ways to smoke. I used to care (about my friends smoking) but now I don’t anymore.

Smoking is ultimately a personal choice, everyone who smokes knows it’s bad but they’ll still do it.

– Yoojin, 19

6. Honestly, I see the purpose behind the new rule, but I question how effective it’s going to be. My father picked up smoking when he was only 10, so I don’t know what’s going to stop other young folks from doing the same thing despite the rule. But I also can’t question the fact that it will stop some people from starting to smoke too early, especially since most smokers start at the age of 18 and do so as a means of socialising.

The only effective way to curb this is through introducing healthier alternatives and making those more accessible than a cigarette. Starting smoking 3 years later doesn’t mean you have a lower likelihood of getting lung cancer at the end of the day. You can stop the number of people smoking, but the severity of it – less likely.

– Eunice, 19

7. There are a couple of ways to look at this. The first (which is the focus) is the realm of healthcare, both long and short-term. The number of smokers will definitely decrease. The question to ask is whether the decrease is substantial enough to dwindle healthcare costs borne by both the Government and the people.

If it’s not, then the authorities probably already have their focus misplaced. The second approach will probably be looked at from a social perspective: of whether increasing the age limit really decreases the number of smokers.

If the answers to these two areas are weak, then changing it up is just a waste of resources. The means doesn’t justify its end but in the same way, it also works in the opposite way.

(On friends who smoke) I hope that they will take care of themselves better, but then again, different people do it for different reasons so I’m fine with it.

– Mandon, 23

Social Media Erupts

News of the change in smoking laws has caused some debate among netizens.  

Naturally, parents and counsellors lauded the move to raise the legal smoking age, reported Today, with many pointing out the benefits in health and savings.

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However, many were sceptical about it, and questioned how effective this new law will be.

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Many took pity on NSFs, as they seem to be the ones most affected by this change.

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This user shed light on how smoking has played a part in his life.

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Smoking In Singapore

While we think the intention behind the new smoking measures is good, the question is whether they are sufficient to produce the desired results.

Instead of yet more rules and regulations that may be flouted just as easily as the previous set of rules, perhaps it would be better to find out why really young people start smoking in the first place, and root out the problem from there.

Featured Image from media.washtimes.com

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