Chewing gum is banned in Singapore under the Regulation of Imports and Exports (Chewing Gum) Regulations. The ban, which includes all gum substances of vegetable or synthetic origin such as bubble gum and dental chewing gum, carries a hefty fine and possible jail term for those caught importing, selling or manufacturing chewing gum.
One of the objectives of the ban was to prevent vandals from using spent chewing gums to disrupt Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) services. Before the ban was enforced, there had been many instances in which vandals stuck chewing gum on door sensors of MRT trains, which prevented the doors from functioning properly and causing disruptions in train services. The chewing gum ban was implemented to eradicate problems created by chewing-gum litter in public places like cinemas, parks and common areas of housing estates such as lifts, staircases and corridors, as well as the high costs involved to clean up the litter. The Housing and Development Board (HDB) reportedly spent S$150,000 annually to clean up chewing gum litter.
The various problems created by chewing-gum litter and the idea of banning chewing gum were first raised in 1983 by then Minister for Foreign Affairs and Culture S. Dhanabalan. In the 1980s, before the ban came into effect on 3 January 1992, the government had already implemented some controls over the sale of chewing gum. The then Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (now known as MediaCorp) was prohibited from showing commercials that promoted the sale of chewing gum, while school tuckshops were told to stop selling chewing gum to students.
Public reaction to the chewing gum ban was divided. Supporters of the ban, including Singapore Mass Rapid Transit, the Consumers Association of Singapore, cinemas and cleaners, felt that the ban would help get rid of a perennial nuisance, and in turn improve the cleanliness of public places. Critics of the ban felt that it was too sudden and harsh. They proposed that a more pragmatic approach be adopted such as public education or heavier fines imposed on those who failed to dispose their chewing gum appropriately. The ban was also unpopular with chewing gum distributors – including provision shops, convenience stores and supermarkets – as they had to get rid of their chewing gum stocks at a loss.
Despite the criticisms, the government went ahead with the chewing gum ban, as public education did not produce the desired effect. The ban proved effective in reducing the number of chewing gum litter cases. For instance, in February 1993, the average number of cases per day was just two compared with 525 before the ban. With the drastic reduction in chewing gum litter, town councils reported huge savings in cleaning costs.
In March 2004, the chewing gum ban was partially lifted after the government allowed the sale of gum under the free-trade agreement signed with the United States of America. However, the permitted gums were restricted to those with therapeutic value such as nicotine gum and oral dental gum.
1. Republic of Singapore. Government Gazette. Subsidiary Legislation Supplement. (1992, January 2). The Prohibition of Imports (Chewing Gum) Order 1992 (Sp.S 3/1992) (p. 2). Singapore: [s.n.]. Call no.: RSING 348.5957 SGGSLS.
2. Republic of Singapore, Government Gazette. Subsidiary Legislation Supplement, 2 Jan 1992, p. 2; Having chewing gum for consumption not an offence. (1992, January 1). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG..
3. Nathan, D. (1991, December 31). Chewing gum to be banned. The Straits Times, p. 1; Lim, T. (1992, February 8). Gum jams MRT train again. The New Paper, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. The Straits Times, 31 Dec 1991, p. 1.
5. Jacob, P. (1983, November 21). Chewing gum may be banned. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. The Straits Times, 21 Nov 1983, p. 9.
7. The Straits Times, 21 Nov 1983, p. 9; The Straits Times says... Not simply a sticky problem. (1983, November 23). The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Case backs ban on chewing gum for good of the environment. (1992, January 11). The Straits Times, p. 25; Pereira, B. (1992, January 1). SMRT, town councils and cinemas hail ban. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. The Straits Times, 1 Jan 1992, p. 12; Chewing gum ban: How to make it more palatable. (1992, January 17). The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Sticky issues remain. (1992, January 5). The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Hong, L. T. (1992, January 1). Chewing gum distributors stuck with large stocks. The Business Times, p. 18; Loh, S. (1992, January 3). Chewing gum prices slashed to clear stock. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Goh, D. (1992, January 10). Public education did not get rid of gum nuisance. (The Straits Times, p. 38. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Nathan, D. (1993, March 18). Few chewing gum litter cases now, thanks to ban. The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. US-S'pore FTA no longer stuck on gum. (2003, July 10). The Straits Times, p. 3; 12-year chewing gum ban partially lifted. (2004, March 17). Today. p. 10 Retrieved from NewspaperSG;
14. Tan, H. L. (2004, March 19). Gum’s back, and it’s good for health. Today, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
The information in this article is valid as at 2011 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.