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Hundreds of students prosecuted for vaping offences

ANN/THE STRAITS TIMES – Some 800 students in Singapore were prosecuted in 2022 for vaping offences, underscoring concerns over the rising popularity of electronic cigarettes in the country.

The student demographics included those from as young as primary school and those studying in institutes of higher learning (IHLs).

Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority (HSA) said the students were referred to them by the Ministry of Education (MOE).

Some of the students also received fines, the HSA said. Those caught purchasing, using or owning a vapouriser can be fined up to SGD2,000 per offence.

When contacted, MOE said the students were from primary schools to the autonomous universities, but declined to provide a breakdown.

Fewer than 50 students from schools and IHLs were referred to HSA for vaping offences before 2020, Second Minister for Education Maliki Osman had said in Parliament earlier this month.

PHOTO: ENVATO

He also said the government and various health agencies were concerned about the vaping situation, not just among students but in the wider community.

A HSA spokesman said they are working with the Ministry of Health and Health Promotion Board (HPB) in using legislation, enforcement, public education and counselling to tackle the possession and use of vapourisers among students.

“Students caught using or possessing e-vapourisers will be required to attend cessation programmes arranged by HPB and schools.

“Recalcitrant offenders may also be referred by the schools to HSA for further action, such as composition fines or prosecution,” added the spokesman.

Although there has been a ban on e-cigarettes or vapourisers, since February 1, 2018, a total of 4,916 people were caught in 2022 for using and possessing vapourisers, up from 4,697 the previous year and 1,266 in 2020.

HSA said in September that 18 people were convicted between April and August 2023 for selling vapourisers and related components, with total fines levied against them amounting to SGD153,000.

Those caught importing, distributing or selling such products faces fines of up to SGD10,000, and a jail sentence of up to six months or both for the first offence.

A discipline master with an IHL, who declined to be named, said students caught for their first offence are usually given a warning.

The school will also send a letter to their parents and the students made to pick up discarded vapourisers or cigarette butts on the school premises.

He said the school he works at had referred a student in 2021 to HSA after he was caught a second time. The student was fined SGD300.

“The number of students caught vaping each month has not improved. Now they hide the vapourisers in false ceilings or behind mirrors in the toilets close to the classrooms,” said the discipline master, who added that teachers now conduct random checks on students.

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