Southeast Asia tightens smoking regulations over medical cost, health issues

May 10, 2017

Southeast Asian countries are beginning to tighten tobacco use regulations as concerns rise over increasing medical costs and the health effects of passive smoking.

Southeast Asia has historically been lenient on the issue of smoking. However, governments are now finding it harder to ignore the costs of smoking, in terms of both public health and state finances.

A major driver of smoking restrictions is concern that the habit can lead to higher medical costs, increasing the financial burden on government health care programs. Smoking has been linked to heart and other diseases. The number of deaths attributable to cardiovascular diseases in Indonesia almost tripled from 2000 to 2015 and nearly doubled during the same period in the Philippines.

Singapore is beginning the process to raise the minimum legal age to smoke from 18 to 21. The city-state wants to start parliamentary debate on the measure within a year and implement the change within several years. The government has already taken several steps to make Singapore a smoke-free state: Advertisements promoting tobacco are already illegal, and from August, displaying tobacco products at shops will also be prohibited.

In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to sign an executive order effectively banning smoking in any public space across the country, including on streets, at restaurants and on public transport. Smoking will be allowed only in specially designated rooms, and those who breach the rule will face a fine.

Thailand is set to raise the minimum legal smoking age from 18 to 20 when a new tobacco law is enacted in July. In February, Malaysia expanded areas where tobacco use is prohibited to include parks and other places popular among teenagers. The government is also considering raising the legal age of use to 21 from the current 18.

According to World Health Organization (WHO) data, 76% of males in Indonesia age 15 or older smoke. The figure is 43% in Malaysia and the Philippines.



Category: Community, Features

Comments are closed.