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What is the Penalty for Chewing Gum in Singapore?

In Singapore, chewing gum is banned under strict laws to maintain cleanliness. Violators face hefty fines up to $1000 for a first offense. This zero-tolerance policy reflects the city-state's commitment to public order. Curious about how this law fits into Singapore's unique legal landscape? Discover more about the city's innovative approach to governance in our full article.
Devon Pryor
Devon Pryor

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.

A pack of chewing gum.
A pack of chewing gum.

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.

Chewing gum in Singapore can result in a jail sentence.
Chewing gum in Singapore can result in a jail sentence.

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.

Singapore is known for its devotion to cleanliness.
Singapore is known for its devotion to cleanliness.

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.

In Singapore, the chewing gum ban is connected to the littering law.
In Singapore, the chewing gum ban is connected to the littering law.

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.

The ban on chewing gum was implemented in 1992.
The ban on chewing gum was implemented in 1992.

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).

A person can be fined for not flushing a public toilet in Singapore.
A person can be fined for not flushing a public toilet in Singapore.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is chewing gum completely banned in Singapore?

No, chewing gum is not completely banned in Singapore. However, the import and sale of chewing gum with therapeutic value were allowed under strict regulations. This exception was made after the United States-Singapore Free Trade Agreement in 2004. Regular chewing gum is still banned from being sold within the country, but possession for personal use is not illegal.

What are the penalties for selling or importing chewing gum in Singapore?

According to Singapore's regulations, the penalty for importing or selling chewing gum can be quite severe. Individuals caught selling or importing gum can face hefty fines and even imprisonment. The exact penalties can vary depending on the quantity and whether it is a repeat offense, but fines can reach up to thousands of Singapore dollars, and imprisonment terms can be up to two years.

Can tourists bring chewing gum into Singapore?

Yes, tourists are allowed to bring a reasonable amount of chewing gum into Singapore for personal use. However, it is advised to keep the quantity small to avoid any misunderstanding with customs officials. Tourists should be aware that distributing or selling gum within the country is illegal and subject to strict penalties.

Why did Singapore implement a ban on chewing gum?

Singapore implemented a ban on chewing gum in 1992 primarily to maintain cleanliness and public order. The government was concerned about the costs and inconveniences caused by improperly disposed gum, such as sticking on public seats, doors, and pavements, and affecting the sensors and doors of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system. The ban was part of a broader effort to uphold high standards of cleanliness and public hygiene.

Are there any exceptions to the chewing gum ban in Singapore?

Yes, there are exceptions to the chewing gum ban in Singapore. Chewing gum of therapeutic value, such as nicotine gum and dental chewing gum, is allowed. These products can be purchased from pharmacies, and buyers may be required to provide personal information for purchase tracking. The intention behind this exception is to allow for the benefits of such products while maintaining control over the sale and distribution of gum.

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Discussion Comments

anon354594

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

anon352404

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.

anon321538

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.

anon276900

@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.

anon262796

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.

anon259848

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.

anon247514

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

anon242580

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

anon229259

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.

anon157316

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

anon150118

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.

anon139203

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.

bananas

@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.

anon118676

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

anon109676

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

anon91414

good laws made clean places.

anon78685

Chewing gum helps with anxiety and stress.

anon59956

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

jabuka

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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    • A pack of chewing gum.
      By: vlorzor
      A pack of chewing gum.
    • Chewing gum in Singapore can result in a jail sentence.
      By: angelo.gi
      Chewing gum in Singapore can result in a jail sentence.
    • Singapore is known for its devotion to cleanliness.
      By: syphrix
      Singapore is known for its devotion to cleanliness.
    • In Singapore, the chewing gum ban is connected to the littering law.
      By: RTimages
      In Singapore, the chewing gum ban is connected to the littering law.
    • The ban on chewing gum was implemented in 1992.
      By: nyul
      The ban on chewing gum was implemented in 1992.
    • A person can be fined for not flushing a public toilet in Singapore.
      By: Henryk Sadura
      A person can be fined for not flushing a public toilet in Singapore.