While Singapore has achieved excellence in various areas, smoking control measures is not among the forefront of our achievements. The World Health Organisation (WHO) published their report on tobacco-control measures yesterday and only four countries, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Brazil, and Turkey, implemented all of its recommended anti-tobacco measures.
Why is smoking such a big problem?
Smoking continues to be the leading cause of preventable death, claiming the lives of 8.7 million people annually. Shockingly, among those affected are 1.3 million individuals who suffer from inhaling second-hand smoke.
When it comes to Singapore, tobacco kills 2,500 smokers and 250 non-smokers each year. The economic burden of smoking in Singapore has been conservatively estimated to amount to at least S$600 million per year, including both direct healthcare expenses and productivity losses.
As you would have already known, smoking is linked to a many serious health conditions. This including cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and more. Additionally, smoking increases the risk of chronic pain, tuberculosis, and immune system problems like rheumatoid arthritis.
Secondhand smoke exposure also poses significant health risks. Secondhand smoke is associated with stroke, lung cancer, and coronary heart disease in adults. Children exposed to secondhand smoke face higher risks of sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, middle ear disease, more severe asthma, respiratory symptoms, and slower lung growth.
These alarming consequences of smoking and secondhand smoke underscore the urgent need for comprehensive tobacco control measures to protect public health and reduce the burden of preventable diseases. Raising awareness about the harmful effects of smoking and secondhand smoke is essential in fostering a smoke-free environment and promoting better health for all.
Smoking and chronic pain
As a chiropractor, we want to emphasise that smoking is linked to chronic pain. Research has shown that smoking can contribute to the exacerbation of chronic pain conditions such as neck pain, back pain, and even slipped discs.
Smoking has a direct impact on the body’s inflammatory response. This can hinder the body’s ability to heal and recover from injuries, further contributing to chronic pain. Furthermore, smoking can also affect pain perception and management. Smokers may experience heightened pain sensations and find it more challenging to cope with chronic pain.
Smoking is expensive in Singapore but not expensive enough
Earlier this year, the Singapore government implemented a 15% increase in tobacco excise duty. As a result, the cost of a packet of 20 cigarettes that was previously S$14 has now risen to S$15.52.
Compared to other countries, Singapore is indeed one of the most expensive places in the world to smoke. The problem, however, is that even with the increase, cigarettes still remain fairly affordable in Singapore.The WHO gauges affordability by considering the percentage of GDP per capita needed to purchase 2,000 cigarettes of the most popular brand in the country. Surprisingly, despite the high absolute price of cigarettes in Singapore, they are relatively more affordable here compared to many other countries.
Unfortunately, we are not raising tobacco tax often enough. The last time Singapore raised its tobacco excise duty was in 2018 and 2014. For both times, they were raised by 10 per cent each. According to Assistant Professor Yvette van der Eijk from the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, Singapore’s 15 per cent tax hike should be repeated every year. This is to keep up with inflation and to ensure that the tax is enough to deter smoking behaviour.
Singapore does not have a tobacco-free generation plan in place
A tobacco-free generation refers to a future where no children or young adults use tobacco products. The goal of achieving a tobacco-free generation is to create a society where tobacco use is no longer the norm. This reduces the harmful impact of tobacco on public health.
Last year, New Zealand approved an anti-smoking bill in Parliament. This legislation prohibits the sale of tobacco to individuals born on or after January 1, 2009. The ban is the first of its kind in the world. Their primary goal is to deter future generations from taking up smoking and become “smoke-free” by the year 2025.
Unfortunately, Singapore does not have a similar policy. While the minimum legal age for the purchase, use, possession, sale and supply of tobacco products was raised to 21 years old a few years ago, young Singaporeans are still legally allowed to pick up smoking.
Tobacco use is decreasing in Singapore at a very slow rate
While smoking remains a significant concern for Singapore, it is worth acknowledging that smoking is on a decline. The National Population Health Survey results showed that smoking prevalence for Singapore residents decreased from 14% in 2010 to 12% per cent in 2017 and 10% in 2020.
Senior Minister for Health Koh Poh Koon said in parliament that increasing tobacco prices does reduce tobacco consumption. He highlighted that for every 10% increase in price, there is a significant 3-5% decrease in tobacco usage. However, tobacco use has only declined by 4% over the past decade. This indicates that additional interventions are necessary to further combat smoking in Singapore.
While price increases have shown some effect, more can be done to shift Singapore towards a tobacco-free society.
Smoke cessation can be part of your recovery from chronic pain
Smoke cessation can play a crucial role in your journey towards recovery from chronic pain. Quitting smoking has been shown to have several positive effects on pain management and overall well-being.
Firstly, smoking is linked to chronic inflammation, which can exacerbate pain conditions. By quitting smoking, you can reduce inflammation, which can reduce your pain.
Secondly, smoking can impair tissue healing for muscles and joints. This can hinder the body’s natural recovery process, prolonging recovery from injuries and chronic pain. When you quit smoking, your body’s ability to heal and recover improves, contributing to a more effective pain management plan.
Additionally, smoking is known to distort pain perception and coping mechanisms. Smokers may experience heightened pain sensations and have difficulty managing chronic pain. By quitting smoking, you may find that your pain perception becomes more manageable. This in turn may enable you to adopt healthier coping strategies.
Smoking cessation can lead to better overall health. By enhancing your physical capabilities, it is easier to engage in exercises and physical therapies that aid in pain relief and recovery.
Overall, incorporating smoke cessation as part of your pain management plan can yield significant benefits. As you prioritise your health and well-being, quitting smoking can be a powerful step towards achieving a better quality of life and greater control over your pain.
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Frustrated by the lack of results-driven and ethical chiropractic clinics in Singapore, Chiropractor Jesse Cai found Square One Active Recovery to deliver meaningful and sustainable pain solutions.
Our goal? To make our own services redundant to you.