Vape Bans Don’t Work

Singapore is widely known for having an incredible range of strict laws that cover almost every aspect of life. The approach to banning things extends to all things vaping and tobacco harm reduction, but researchers have discovered that this negative approach hasn’t stopped people developing a favourable attitude towards electronic cigarette use.

Electronic cigarettes and related vaping equipment are all banned in Singapore, as is the act of vaping. This isn’t surprising given the country’s approach to most things in life, but what has happened since the ban is.

Other things that are illegal in Singapore:
·Certain kinds of kite flying
·Drinking alcohol after 22:30
·Feeding pigeons
·Causing “annoyance” by singing or playing an instrument
·Not flushing the toilet
·Chewing gum
·Walking about naked in your own house
·And definitely if you do all seven of these at the same time

All those transgressions are punished with a fine, but some carry a prison sentence. For example, get caught chewing gum in Singapore and you are looking at up to 2 years in jail.

Vapers landing in Singapore for a stopover before leaving for an onward destination are fine to have vapes on them, but vapers staying in Singapore buying, using, or simply owning a vape device can be fined over £1500 or every offence.

Researchers at the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore looked at what impact the ban has had. It was assumed that banning vaping in Singapore would have led to one outcome: a zero rate of vape kit use.

The team were shocked to discover the opposite was actually true.
“Vaping appears to have gained popularity in Singapore, especially among younger people. With the heavy marketing of vaping products on social media, it is possible that such marketing, due to its cross-border nature, is reaching younger Singaporeans and driving changes in vaping-related perceptions or behaviours,” they wrote.

The team looked to examine what factors were driving the shift in favourable opinions and whether vaping-related content on social media played a role in this. They identified the accounts of 550 adults and conducted various data analyses.

In this highly regulated nation where vaping is banned, they discovered that 16.9% of participants reported they were electronic cigarette users. Almost 20% of the participants said they’d seen advertising or vaping related posts online. Of those who had seen pro-vaping content, it had been produced by friends or influencers on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and YouTube.

“Even in a heavily regulated environment such as Singapore’s, people appear to be exposed to vaping-related content on social media platforms and this exposure is, in turn, associated with more positive perceptions of vaping, but not e-cigarette ever use,” they concluded.

What the team uncovered could be very pertinent in the United Kingdom where politicians are discussing banning disposable e-cigarette products. Would such a ban stop young people vaping – or would it drive sales underground where unregulated devices are bought and sold?