Singapore has banned the sale of chewing gum and this is the most globally known fact. It was first introduced in the early 1990s, and it became one of the major topics that Western journalists talked about when writing about the city-state. What is less known is the fact that this law is now less strict than it was earlier. With the signing of the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement in 2004, chewing gum with health benefits like dental gum or nicotine gum and other sugar-free options were available from pharmacies. Truth is you can have a few packs in your bag when you’re returning from abroad.
The Motive to Keep Singapore Clean
It all started during the tenure of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first Prime Minister. He was first approached with a chewing gum ban in the early 1980s by the Ministers of National Development. At the time, some controls like a ban on television ads promoting sales and consumption of chewing gum were imposed. The fact is, for years, the Housing Development Board had been spending S$150,000 every year to clean up gum that had been disposed of on sidewalks, in keyholes, housing estates and even on the seats of public transportation.
Initially, Lee Kuan Yew was ready to ban it completely, agreeing with opponents that it was too drastic a step that could be more easily fixed through education and levying fines against repeat offenders. But in 1987 with the launch of the Mass Rapid Transit system, it all changed. The costs of the system had totaled $5 billion and bureaucrats were excited about how it would modernize the city-state. But when people started sticking chewing gum on the train door sensors resulting the doors to malfunction and in long delay of train services, it became necessary to ban chewing gum.
Fact about Real Imposition of Ban
In 1992, chewing gum ban was mooted by the President, Goh Chok Tong, and there were strong opinions for and against this initiative. People working hard to scrap gum off from various surfaces were happy by this imposition whereas opponents were of the view that the sudden ban was too harsh and restrictive on people’s freedoms. Considering all the aspect, the Singaporean government did not prevent people from doing this and instead chose to levy fines against those who were found to be re-selling it.
In Singapore, the chewing gum ban is similar to many other laws to improve the cleanliness of the island, which includes laws against graffiti, littering, and spitting.