Mr Zee Yoong Kang
CEO, Health Promotion Board
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very happy to be here today to commemorate World No Tobacco Day by launching the annual National Tobacco Control Campaign, I Quit.
Update on Singapore’s Smoking Prevalence
2 To tackle tobacco issues, Singapore adopts a multi-pronged strategy that encompasses legislation, taxation, cessation services and public education to reduce the smoking prevalence in Singapore. I am glad to share that our tobacco control efforts have shown some results. The smoking prevalence amongst Singaporean residents aged 18 to 69 years has stabilised in recent years, from 13.6% in 2007 to 13.3% last year1. This can be attributed in part to the significant drop in smoking prevalence amongst those aged 18 to 29 years – from 17.2% in 2007 to 12.7% in 2013. This is indeed great news.
3 While we have seen some positive results in our efforts, more can be done, as tobacco remains to be the single most preventable cause of death and disability in the world today.
Stepping Up Efforts in Tobacco Control
4 Over the next five years, HPB will be escalating its tobacco control efforts to bring down the smoking prevalence further to 12% by 2020.
5 To realise this, HPB will employ a two-pronged strategy. Firstly, HPB will look into preventing tobacco initiation among youths by strengthening public education programmes upstream in schools. Information on harms of tobacco use will be included in mental wellbeing programmes as well as in co-curricular activities. Secondly, to nudge more smokers to kick the habit for good, HPB will strengthen its infrastructure to make smoking cessation support more accessible.
Preventing Initiation Among the Young
6 Youth are susceptible to unhealthy influences, more so if the influences come from their parents or peers. As such, HPB will be collaborating with Ministry of Education to promote more resilience and positive self-esteem to empower children with the knowledge and confidence to say no to tobacco use. This will be supported by legislation, such as the Point-of-Sale (POS) Display Ban announced earlier this year, that will limit their exposure to tobacco products in future.
Getting more smokers to quit
7 Smokers are more likely to quit successfully when they have a supportive environment. Leveraging this, HPB introduced I Quit in 2011, which adopts a community-based approach to establish a network of support to aid smokers in their quit attempt. Today, smokers have access to 150 smoking cessation touchpoints located within the community settings. I am glad to share that over the next five years, we will be increasing I Quit touchpoints by 4-fold, from 150 to 600 island-wide.
8 Since its inception, I Quit has gained traction on the ground. Over 5,000 smokers have come forward to pledge to quit smoking. 14% of those who pledged have successfully kicked the habit for good. This is comparable to the quit rates of similar community-based intervention programmes internationally.
9 Building on this success, I Quit 28-Day Countdown will be rolled out on an even larger scale this year. This year, I Quit aims to get 10,000 smokers to pledge to quit. Starting from today, HPB will be conducting 60 roadshows island wide, so do keep a lookout for a roadshow near you, sign up and reap the benefits from quitting smoking. With convenient access to the 28-Day Countdown and support by Quit Consultants from our partnering pharmacies, we strive to make your quit journey easier.
10 Before I end my speech, I would like to share some thoughts on what I said earlier. I sincerely thank all parties who have been involved, in particular the Health Ambassadors who work very hard. I was there last year, and saw them at the stations we had. They worked passionately. Many of the family members were there, and they shared that they were there to show support for their family members because they care for them. As a Member of Parliament, I have met many Singaporeans who say they care for fellow Singaporeans. They want fellow Singaporeans to quit smoking. But the stonger point, which I am glad we are looking at, is that they want the younger gengeration not to start smoking. So for the strategy to reach out to the young and prevent them from initiating the use of tobacco and smoking, I think we must continue to work together as a society, so that we can lay better lives for fellow Singaporeans and those who live in Singapore, as well as make an impact to global efforts.
11 As we commemorate World No Tobacco Day, I call on smokers to take the first step in your quit journey by joining the I Quit movement – not only for yourself but for your loved ones as well!
12 On this note, I am proud to launch I Quit 2014. Thank you.