Thursday, March 4, 2010

Singapore Sticks to No Chewing Gum

Yesterday the Singapore government reaffirmed its ban on the import of chewing gum (Singapore Gum Ban), a trade situation which Wrigleys and other U.S. gum producers will likely be chewing on.  The influence of U.S. lobby groups is evident, in that the law was actually relaxed in 2004 as part of a U.S. free trade agreement, allowing the import of "medical" gum--  breath freshener, teeth whitener, and nicotine gums.  I wonder if the California and Oregon medical marijuana growers have a lobbiest group working the Singapore politicos here too?
I for one have not missed my "right" to purchase chewing gum since arriving here.  I never have thought chewing gum was very desirable, and I have not understood what people that have the habit enjoy about it.  There is always that problem (and a reason for its ban here) of what do you do with it when its done?  For hard core gum chewers, perhaps there is a black market for gum on the darker streets of Singapore.
Chewing tobacco is a more serious habit, because of the dire health issues associated with it, not to mention the negative social attributes of the practice.  I am unaware of any laws against its import.  However, tobacco is taxed heavily here, and it is illegal to bring in any cigarettes not purchased in Singapore.  (You can see what is going on with this).  As a result, cigarette smuggling seems to be a popular criminal activity.  Cigarettes are (legally) imported from many regions, including U.S., Europe, and China.  (Any concern for melamine in these sticks?)
Smoking is restricted from pubs, discos, coffee shops, public buses, taxis, shopping centers, theaters, etc., which is similar to the restrictions gradually being imposed in the U.S.  The fine here for violation of the smoking regulation is S$1000.
Perhaps the gum lobbiests can learn something from the tobacco lobbiests, as they seem to be doing just a bit better in their efforts to keep their products coming into Singapore. 

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