Smoking in Singapore: Legal Age and Penalties for Illegal Smoking
In Singapore, smoking is defined as the inhaling or expelling of smoke of tobacco or any other substance. This includes holding a lit or smoke-emitting cigarette or any other form of tobacco product.
What is the Legal Age for Smoking in Singapore?
As of 1 January 2019, the minimum age for smoking in Singapore is 19 years old. This will be increased to 20 years old in January 2020, and 21 years old in January 2021.
This plan to increase the legal age for smoking is intended to de-normalise the use of cigarettes amongst adolescent youth, especially as most cultivate the habit between the ages of 18 and 21 years old.
Underage smokers caught smoking can be fined up to $300.
Where in Singapore are Smokers Not Allowed to Smoke?
Smoking is prohibited in the following places (non-exhaustive):
- Recreational facilities such as cinemas, public swimming pools, clubs, sports hubs and community centres;
- Anywhere within 5 metres of educational facilities such as schools, and universities;
- Government and Statutory Bodies’ buildings;
- Bus stop shelters and anywhere within a 5-metre radius of bus stop shelters;
- MRT stations;
- Hotel and lift lobbies;
- Hawker centres;
- Overhead bridges;
- Void deck and stairwells;
- Airports and ferry terminals;
- Covered drop-off and pick up point for passengers;
- Any area that is 5 metres of the ventilation intakes or external windows or openings;
- Any public service vehicle such as buses, private hire cars and taxis.
Orchard Road is also now a smoke-free zone. The areas affected are shown in red in the map below:
People who wish to smoke in Orchard Road will only allowed to do so within Designated Smoking Areas (DSAs) which have been marked out as yellow boxes.
The locations of the DSAs in Orchard Road can be found on the National Environment Agency’s (NEA) website.
For the months of January to March 2019, enforcement officers will be adopting a 3-month advisory period for smokers in the Orchard Area.
Enforcement officers will be wearing identifiable white “No Smoking Zone” polo T-shirts, and will issue verbal warnings or advisories to smokers who are smoking in areas of Orchard Road that are not DSAs.
From April 2019 however, enforcement action will be taken against all offenders.
If you are caught smoking in a prohibited place (whether in Orchard Road or some other location listed above), you are liable for a fine of up to $1,000.
In addition, people who litter cigarette buds can be fined up to $2,000 for first-time offenders, and up to $10,000 for repeat offenders.
Places where Smoking is Allowed
Smoking is allowed within DSAs such as those in open-air hawker centres, universities, or smoking rooms in the airport.
The NEA generally provides a list of areas where smoking is allowed. Such areas are normally explicitly demarcated with notices, overhead signs and/or markings on the ground.
Furthermore, you can smoke within your own home. Currently, there are no laws banning smoking at home as such laws could result in invasions of privacy at home.
You can also smoke inside your car as long as no second-hand smoke is expelled into places where smoking is prohibited. For example, when smoking in your car in a smoke-free zone such as Orchard Road, your car’s windows must be fully wound up.
Harmful and imitation tobacco products
In Singapore, it is illegal to import, distribute, sell or use any harmful tobacco products such as chewing tobacco, loose leaf tobacco, smokeless cigars, and dissolvable nicotine.
The list of harmful tobacco products is decided by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA), and the list can be found on HSA’s website.
It is further illegal to sell, possess or use any imitation tobacco products that resembles or is designed to resemble a tobacco product. This includes e-cigarettes.
If you sell, or possess for sale, harmful tobacco products and imitation tobacco products, you are liable for a fine up to $10,000 and/or 6 months imprisonment for first-time offenders, and up to $20,000 and/or 12 months imprisonment for repeat offenders.
You are also liable to a fine of up to $2,000 if you:
- Possess harmful or imitation tobacco products for purposes other than sale; or
- Use or purchase such harmful or imitation tobacco products.
Before cigarettes can be imported into, and/or manufactured in Singapore, importers and manufacturers have to ensure that each cigarette is:
- Marked with the letters “SDPC” (Singapore Duty-Paid Cigarette); and
- Has a series of vertical bars,
before the cigarettes are released for sale or consumption in Singapore.
The following is an illustration of how an SDPC cigarette might look:
It is illegal to sell or smoke cigarettes that do not have such “SPDC” stamp in Singapore.
Anyone who imports into Singapore, or manufactures, such contraband cigarettes without the “SDPC” and vertical bar markings are liable for a fine of up to $5,000.
A first-time offender caught smoking, or in possession of 1 duty unpaid pack of cigarette will be fined $500. The penalty will increase if there are more than one duty-unpaid pack of cigarettes, or if he is a repeat offender.
What Happens If You are Caught Smoking Illegal Cigarettes and/or in Prohibited Places?
Power of Police and NEA officers to arrest and serve notices
Police officers and NEA officers can arrest anyone who is suspected of smoking illegal cigarettes or smoking in prohibited places, without any warrant, and produce them before the court or to the police station.
The officers can also demand for proof of identity and search your bags as required.
If upon arrest, the officers are satisfied as to your identity, name and place of residence, they may serve upon you one of the following notices:
- Notice to Attend Court
- Summons with an Offer of Composition
- Notice of Composition
If the notice comes with an offer of composition (i.e. it states a sum of money that is to be paid), you can settle the offence without having to attend court by paying the composition. If there is no sum stated, you would need to go to court.
Payment of composition can be made up to 3 working days from the day of the offence, failing which a warrant can be issued for your arrest. You can make the payment through an AXS station, with a credit card via NEA online payment or at the NEA customer service centre.
A warrant to arrest will be issued against you for late payment or failure to show up in court when you are served with a Notice to Attend Court.
More importantly, if you obstruct an officer from carrying out their duties such as searching your premises or confiscating your illegal tobacco products, or if you provide false statements to the officers, you can be arrested and sentenced to a fine of up to $10,000 and/or jail for up to a maximum of 12 months.
Power of citizens to report offenders to NEA
Citizens are given the power, and are encouraged, to report you to NEA if they see you smoking an illegal cigarette or smoking in a prohibited area.
Furthermore, managers of establishments (where smoking is prohibited) are allowed to ask you to leave the premises if you are caught smoking in their premises.
Can I Appeal Against Any Fine for Smoking?
Yes, you can appeal against your smoking fine. However, it is important to note that the majority of appeals are rejected.
If you intend to appeal against your fine, you should have a strong reason (e.g. financial difficulty or medical reasons) for doing so and be able to support your appeal with sufficient documentary evidence.
You need to download the appeal form from the NEA website, and mail the form along with all the supporting documents required by the form to the NEA Building. Such supporting documents include:
- A copy of your NRIC/Student Pass (for students)/Employment or Dependant Pass (for foreigners);
- Proof of income such as your latest month’s payslip;
- For reasons of financial difficulties;
- Any documents showing financial assistance received from any organisations; and
- Income documents of all family members residing in the same household
- For medical reasons:
- A letter from a medical institution
Can I Bring Cigarettes into Singapore from Overseas?
Declaring of cigarettes to customs
You can bring in cigarettes to Singapore (up to 400 grams) from overseas, but it must be declared to customs. There is no GST relief or duty-free concession for tobacco products in Singapore.
First-time offenders who fail to declare or incorrectly declare their cigarettes, even open packets, can be fined up to $200 per box or per 20 sticks or part thereof.
Permit required for importing more than 400 grams of cigarettes
If you are carrying more than 400 grams of cigarettes, you need to present a Customs Import Permit, mainly the Customs In-Payment “Duty and GST” (IPT-DNG) permit. Application for the permit must be done on the TradeNet website.
Only businesses can apply for the permit as you need to register with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) prior to creating a Customs Account.
More information on how to apply for the permit can be found on the Singapore Customs website.
Importing of contraband cigarettes
Anyone who imports contraband cigarettes into Singapore can also be liable for a fine of up to $5,000 (as mentioned above).
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