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in which country is it illegal to chew gum?

in which country is it illegal to chew gum?

in which country is it illegal to chew gum?

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in which country is it illegal to chew gum?

Singapore is the only country in the world that has banned chewing gum. And even though this decision may sound weird, it seems that there’s a pretty good reason for it: to keep the country clean.

The ban was introduced in 1992 by Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first Prime minister since its independence in 1965. Lee’s dream was to establish Singapore as a “first-world oasis in a third-world region”. One of the ways to establish that and along with efficient transportations and foreign investments, was by the country’s cleanliness.

Lee, being a perfectionist, always considered chewing gums as a threat to its country’s tidiness. Even when consultants tried to convince him that chewing gum stuck to the pavements might be a sign of the “new burst of creativity in business”

For Lee, chewing gum was the disgusting thing on the subway door, not a mean for creativity and that’s why, by the power he had of being Prime minister for 31 years, he went on to pass the law that still exists up until today.

Of course, as a result of the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement in 2004, it is now possible to get chewing gum in Singapore but only for therapeutic purposes (for example nicotine gums) and only for the customers with a medical prescription.

in which country is it illegal to chew gum?
in which country is it illegal to chew gum?

How Did The Chewing Gum Sales Ban Come Into Place?

To learn how, we’ll first have to take a walk down Memory Lane.

Back in the early 1980s, chewing gum was pretty prevalent.

And as one may have expected, it caused a whole host of problems.

Apparently, people were disposing of their used chewing gum everywhere, ranging from lifts to cinemas to even doors.

It was such a nasty problem that in 1983, Foreign Affairs and Culture Minister S. Dhanabalan had to bring up the issue.

Hard not to, actually, considering how HDB was spending a rough $150K

a year on the removal of chewing gum alone.

A ban to keep Singapore clean

According to Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first Prime Minister,

he was first approached about a chewing gum ban in the early 1980s by the Ministers of National Development. At the time, some initial controls were put in place including a ban on television advertisements that promoted the sale

or consumption of chewing gum. For years, the Housing Development Board had reportedly been spending

S$150,000 annually to tidy up gum that had been disposed of on sidewalks, in keyholes, around housing estates and even on the seats of public transportation.

Initially, Lee Kuan Yew had been opposed to a complete ban, agreeing with opponents that it was too drastic a measure that could be more easily fixed through education and levying fines against repeat offenders. This all changed in 1987 with the launch of the Mass Rapid Transit system. The costs of the system had totalled $5 billion and politicians were very excited about how it would modernize, and even revolutionize, the city-state. So when people started sticking chewing gum on the train door sensors causing the doors to malfunction and resulting in long disruptions of train services, chewing gum had officially worn out its welcome on the island.
in which country is it illegal to chew gum?
in which country is it illegal to chew gum?

 why singapore banned chewing gum?

By the time the gum ban was implemented, Lee had completed 31 years as prime minister, and had become “senior minister”, a big power behind the scenes.

“We were called a nanny state,” he told the BBC’s Peter Day in 2000. “But the result is that we are today better behaved and we live in a more agreeable place than 30 years ago.”

At that time, Lee was pushing for a “new burst of creativity in business” and Day “hesitantly” suggested that chewing gum stuck to the pavements might be a sign that the desired new spirit of creativity had arrived.

Lee grimaced.

“Putting chewing gum on our subway train doors so they don’t open, I don’t call that creativity. I call that mischief-making,” Lee replied. “If you can’t think because you can’t chew, try a banana.”

Lee felt there was a public policy solution to everything, Plate says, even that gum on the pavement, or the doors of the “mass rapid transit” trains. “He was what I call a pragmatic utopian,” Plate says. “He woke up in the morning and said, ‘How can I make it better today?'”

why singapore banned chewing gum?

Gum is, anyway, “largely legally chewable” nowadays, Plate says.

It has always been legal to bring small amounts into the country for one’s own use.

Since 2004 – as a result of the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement – pharmacists and dentists have also been allowed to sell “therapeutic” gum, to customers with a medical prescription. This includes standard sugar-free gum.

You’d still face a steep fine for spitting out the chewed gum and leaving it as litter.

“We joke about these policies… we Singaporeans describe Singapore as a ‘fine city’ – a tongue-in-cheek reference to the many fines that can be imposed for various types of social misconduct,” says Eugene Tan, an associate professor of law at the Singapore Management University.

why singapore banned chewing gum?

And despite the change in the law in 2004, “one would be hard-pressed to find people chewing gum in Singapore,” Tan says.

He personally doesn’t miss it.

“The footpaths look a lot nicer without the ugly gum marks,” he says.

A Singaporean student studying in London, Pei-yi Yu, also sees advantages in going gum-free.

“I have often had the unpleasant experience of getting my body parts into contact with both fresh and stale chewing gum in lecture theatres and classrooms,” across the UK, he says.

In Singapore “we have a clean environment” he adds – thanks to Lee.

Plate, who has visited Singapore more than a dozen times, has never had any problem complying with the law, though he says his Berkeley-educated wife was tempted to walk on the grass.

Singapore is “excessively cleaned, overpriced and over-policed,” he says – not that different from his own home town, Beverly Hills in California.

in which country is it illegal to chew gum?
in which country is it illegal to chew gum?

Objectivies of the ban

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.

Objectivies of the ban

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 which country is it illegal to chew gum?
in which country is it illegal to chew gum?

Penalty for Chewing Gum in Singapore

People still managed to get their hands on chewing gum in Singapore anyway (maybe from a chewing gum black market). The Singaporean government didn’t stop them from doing so but also levied heavy fines (USD 100,000 or a prison sentence of up to two years) against those who were found selling it. The Singapore chewing gum penalty is very similar to the littering fines, where you get fined USD 500- USD 1000  on the first offence, and USD 2000 for the repeat offenders.

The chewing gum ban in Singapore is less strict now than it initially was

(the ban on the sale of chewing gum in Singapore is one of the most well-known international laws). After the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement was signed in 2004, chewing gum with health benefits such as nicotine gum and dental gum can be bought from pharmacies.

So, the next time you are in Singapore and have an urge to chew gum, try banana instead,

as suggested by Lee Kuan Yew himself.

in which country is it illegal to chew gum,

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