Synergies between the Tobacco-Free Generation Endgame and our green plans

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that annually tobacco production contributes greenhouse gas equivalent of 84 megatons of carbon dioxide, in addition to destroying 3.5 million hectares of land. These adverse environmental effects lead to unfavourable climate change, resource wastage, ecosystems damage and deforestation. (1)

Hence, WHO made a call that governments should make tobacco producers bear the costs of environmental degradations they inflict on the earth and humanity. It declared that besides all-important health itself, reducing tobacco consumption is a key driver for sustainable development goals (1).

Given the grave adverse impact which the tobacco industry exacts on the environment, I am disappointed to see that our ambitious climate goals and green plans do not address tobacco consumption and tobacco production within our jurisdiction (2,3).

A great way forward which can meld drastic reduction of the myriad ills of tobacco while contributing significantly to our bold climate or green plans is the tobacco endgame strategy.

The tobacco endgame is about a commitment, a plan and a course of action to permanently reduce overall smoking prevalence to a minimal acceptable level within a defined timeframe (4). It is systemic, fundamentally transformative and not about more of the same or incremental changes, like what we are seeing now (5).

The Tobacco-Free Generation approach is one such prominent endgame strategy which originated from Singapore (6). The big idea is about realising a tobacco-free Singapore in a not-so-distant future via legislation to prohibit the sale of all tobacco products to young people who are born from a certain year onwards (for example 2010), to be implemented in 2030.

Over time, current smoking adults will pass on, and there will be no more replacement smokers as tobacco products are no longer available for sale to anyone born in or after the chosen cohort year.

What remains will be a small group of rebels who brave breaking the law to smoke products they get from the black market, a group we already have now. Hence, a tobacco endgame is achieved.

Governments in New Zealand, Malaysia and Denmark (7 a, b, c) have already gone past initial exploration and are now in motion to look into the enactment of laws to implement such an endgame strategy.

Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean who chairs the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change recently said, “We are making a decisive move: one that is necessary, practical and implementable” and “”We are making a commitment on behalf of generations of Singaporeans to come, spanning several decades into the future.” (2)

In its positive impact on the environment and massive gains in public health, the Tobacco-Free Generation Endgame is in the same realm as what SM Teo alludes to. It is a public health, climate, environmental and green plan rolled into one.

I strongly urge the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change to incorporate the Tobacco-Free Generation Endgame into the current review. The present and past generations are stuck with the tobacco epidemic. The future generations do not have to be, if our government is willing to be audacious.

Lim Teck Koon, Singapore


  4. “the sustained harm from smoking, have given rise to discussion of how to end the cigarette epidemic. Often described as ‘the tobacco endgame’, this goal means permanently reducing overall smoking prevalence to a minimal level within a defined timeframe. Previously defined endgame targets include: close to zero smoking prevalence (ranging from <1% to <5%), ending tobacco sales, eliminating smoking disparities, and eliminating children’s exposure to smoking.”
  5. Tobacco endgames: what they are and are not, issues for tobacco control strategic planning and a possible US scenario,
    “An endgame addresses tobacco as a systems issue, rather than an individual behaviour; addresses health and political implications; reframes strategic debates; advances social justice; and is fundamentally transformative in changing how tobacco use and the tobacco industry are regarded. An endgame is not merely more of the same, in that it requires an authentic public policy commitment to achieving a true endgame, as opposed to continuing to envision the public health challenge as an ongoing war of attrition. Incremental change cannot fix this public health emergency, at least not absent a vision of an endpoint when the threat will be eradicated.”
  7. (a) (b) (c)
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