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What is the Penalty for Chewing Gum in Singapore?

By Devon Pryor
Updated May 23, 2024
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The notably clean and well-kept public spaces in the country of Singapore are likely to make quite an impression on visitors. The same can be said for the items in Singapore law that enforce and ensure the spic and span public spaces. One such law is the well-publicized ban on chewing gum, which was implemented in Singapore in 1992.

The ban on chewing gum in Singapore was implemented by the new Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong, in January of 1992. Previously, the issue of banning chewing gum in Singapore had been a point of discussion among other important leaders of the country. In particular, Lee Kuan Yew, considered the country’s founding father, had vocalized his concerns about the fouling effects that chewing gum in Singapore seemed to be having on the streets, buildings, buses, subways, and other public spaces.

Chewing gum was being left of on sidewalks, and other public areas, rather than being properly disposed of in designated garbage receptacles. This was costing the government large amounts of money to remove and clean, as well as causing damage to the cleaning equipment itself, which then cost more money to replace. Vandals were reportedly leaving used chewing gum in keyholes, on elevator buttons, and in mail boxes, causing a number of challenges in maintaining the order and cleanliness in Singapore.

In addition to this cost, the improper disposal of chewing gum in Singapore was threatening the function and efficiency of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT). The MRT is a system of trains that, at the time, was the largest and most expensive public project executed in Singapore. Vandals were leaving the chewing gum in the doors of the MRT trains, preventing the doors from properly closing. This not only interrupted the service of the MRT trains, but was extremely costly to repair.

So, in January of 1992, Singaporean law adopted a new ban on chewing gum. The ban on chewing gum in Singapore outlawed import, sale, and manufacture of chewing gum. The ban on the import and manufacture of gum was enforced immediately, and a short grace period was allowed for merchants to sell their remaining supplies, and for the public to chew whatever gum they had left.

When the ban on chewing gum in Singapore was first implemented, opportunistic smugglers began to bring in chewing gum from neighboring Malaysia and Johur Bahru. Smugglers and other delinquents who defied the ban, when caught, were publicly shamed by the government. Illegal import of chewing gum even applies to bringing a few pieces into the country for personal use, a fact which demonstrates the serious nature of the ban on chewing gum in Singapore.

In terms of Singaporean law, the ban on chewing gum in Singapore can be considered an extension of the littering law. Therefore, the act of chewing gum in Singapore is associated with similar penalties to those imposed for littering. The littering law requires a fine of $500 to $1,000 US Dollars (USD) for first time offenders. Repeat offenders may be fined up to $2,000 USD and assigned a Corrective Work Order (CWO).

When serving a CWO for violating littering laws, offenders are made to clean public spaces, often while wearing a bright colored jacket. The media may also be invited to cover the event, increasing the severity of the penalty though additional public shame. The CWO as a penalty for chewing gum in Singapore was reportedly implemented in November of 1992.

In March of 2004, following the United States – Singapore Free Trade Agreement (USSFTA), Singaporean laws banning chewing gum were revised. The ban was lifted, only partially, to allow the sale of chewing gum considered to have health benefits. This includes products such as dental-health gum, and nicotine gum to assist people who want to quit smoking.

These chewing gums can only be sold in pharmacies, and consumers must provide name and ID. Pharmacists who sell the gum without collecting the required information can be fined up to $2,940 USD and jailed for two years. The penalties for violating restrictions on chewing gum in Singapore, such as fines, Corrective Work Orders, and jail time, are often considered severe by outsiders. Similar fineable activities include spitting in public and not flushing public toilets.

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Discussion Comments

By anon354594 — On Nov 09, 2013

Was it really banned in 1992? I still remember eating chewing gum after I was born in the late 90s.

By anon352404 — On Oct 22, 2013

Whenever you go to a popular bus stop or any public place like a park in USA, it is always full of dried bubble gum stains. It's sad because most of the time there is a trash can right there, but people are ignorant and don't use it. Not to mention the annoying noise some people make when chewing on it! Good for Singapore.

By anon321538 — On Feb 23, 2013

It is now possible to bring in chewing gum, but only in small quantities and for your own personal use. This means you can't sell it or anything. I'm not sure whether you can chew gum publicly, but for me, I just chew my gum behind closed doors. If you want to throw your gum away, please do so responsibly. You will get fined if you are caught irresponsibly disposing of gum.

By anon276900 — On Jun 27, 2012

@bananas: The ban: was put in place after the metro lines were hit by delays as gum stuck on sensors and automatic doors, causing the public transport lines to grind to a halt. People depend on this lines to get to work, school, etc. in Singapore. These disruptions due to gum cost millions in productivity, outweighing the joy of chewing gum.

By anon262796 — On Apr 21, 2012

No one cares if you chew gum in Singapore. The authorities will close an eye. However, the trouble starts when you do not dispose of the gum properly.

So chew responsibly.

By anon259848 — On Apr 08, 2012

I think that this law has gone too far. If people want to chew gum, let them. The government should not stop people from chewing gum.

By anon247514 — On Feb 14, 2012

I will not be visiting Singapore after reading this. It is a totalitarian society.

By anon242580 — On Jan 24, 2012

Gum chewing in Singapore is not good. I think maybe people take gum and stick it all over the place and make dirty dirt. So stop is now. Singapore is a good role model. --tiny_princess

By anon229259 — On Nov 12, 2011

For people like me who suffer from sore throat a lot, chewing gum works better than medicine and can be highly beneficial. I try to do it discreetly, and never litter. Do not judge all by a few.

By anon157316 — On Mar 02, 2011

i am an activist for no-to-chewing-gum myself.

By anon150118 — On Feb 07, 2011

It would be quite nice if people were fined for chewing gum in public indoor locations in the USA. Perhaps it would be tolerable if silence could maintained, but too many people seem to make an auditory side show of it. Apparently most people have difficulty keeping their cow mouths shut when chewing.

By anon139203 — On Jan 04, 2011

I am a dentist. Chewing gum does not prevent cavities. This is a myth promulgated by the gum industry. When you chew gum in a professional workplace you lose credibility. It makes you look like a cow!

I'm a dentist and I have to scrape gum off the walkway to my office regularly. The pavement and cement at schools where I live are covered with the stuff. Don't even look under the table at a restaurant. People are pigs! Singapore has done a sensible thing.

By bananas — On Oct 17, 2010

@anon91414:

There should be a balance in life. Too many and too strict laws are confining. No laws or ill conceived laws can create chaos.

But don't tell me that having a stick of wrigleys gum once in a while, would be that bad. Maybe people should be fined for littering, rather then forbidding the the whole thing altogether. Seems a bit drastic.

By anon118676 — On Oct 14, 2010

I'm never going to singapore. I love gum. it whitens teeth and prevents cavities. it's like a bleeping dentist in your mouth!

By anon109676 — On Sep 08, 2010

That is so harsh but it works to keep the streets clean.

By anon91414 — On Jun 21, 2010

good laws made clean places.

By anon78685 — On Apr 19, 2010

Chewing gum helps with anxiety and stress.

By anon59956 — On Jan 11, 2010

Maybe these laws were revised since I lived in Singapore from 1996 to 2000, but when we were caught crossing from Johor into Singapore with a carton full of 16 packs of gum for my son, I was brought out of my car and into the guard hut and made to read out loud, from a copy of the official law, the fine for bringing gum into the country. The fine was S$100,000.00 or about $70,000.00 US. even if you had one stick.

The border guard let us go after confiscating everything we had in the car: CDs, clothes, gum, etc. Things must have really changed since then.

Needanecho

By jabuka — On Jun 14, 2008

Not only dental health gum, and nicotine gum, but apparently there is another benefit to chewing on gum. It seems that by chewing gum the brain is tricked into thinking that the stomach is full, so any cravings that might start can be satisfied with gum. So by chewing on gum instead of cookies or some other snack, one can keep calorie intake in control.

So someday maybe all bans on chewing gum will be lifted in Singapore.

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