This is the question Professor A J Berrick, one of the authors of the proposal to prohibit the supply of tobacco to Singaporeans born from the year 2000, addressed in a presentation entitled “The End of Tobacco” at a seminar in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the National University of Singapore.
The presentation looked at the four stages of the tobacco epidemic, which began at the end of the 19th century, and proposed a fifth and final stage: the end of the tobacco epidemic. Prof Berrick argued that the ‘end of tobacco’ could be brought about by the introduction of a progressive ban which would lead to a gradual phasing-out of tobacco without affecting addicted smokers. He compared this to the way CFCs were successfully phased-out in the 1990s after the environmental damage they were causing became clear.
Tobacco is unlike other threats to global health (such as AIDS or malaria) in that it is fuelled by a profit-making industry and a highly addictive substance. Despite some successes in the fight against tobacco, statistics indicate that in Singapore and other developed countries, progress has faltered and may even be reversing. This suggests that a bold new approach to tobacco regulation is needed.
A progressive ban, which prohibits the supply of tobacco to future generations of Singaporeans born after the year 2000, would result in a gradual phasing-out of tobacco without affecting the rights of existing smokers. This would lead to a steady decline in the prevalence of smoking so that, by the end of the current century, tobacco use would be all but non-existent in Singapore.
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