The history of why chewing gum is banned in Singapore

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What do you remember about the chewing gum ban in Singapore?

Ask most people on the streets and you’ll get this answer: Oh, it’s because people hand itchy go stick gum on the MRT door, that’s why cannot close so ban loh.


But is this true?

Here’re a few things behind the history of chewing gum in Singapore you probably didn’t know of.

Chewing gum was banned because of many problems. The gums on MRT doors causing disruptions and losses was just the pinnacle of the iceberg, the figurative thing that snapped but many issues had cropped up even before that.

We all know how chewing gums can only be chewed and not swallowed, right? This has caused a big problem as these chewed gums are disposed of in mailboxes, key holes, and even lift buttons. Add in to the way the gums littered the ground and staircases and you’d get a vague idea of how much disruption this little stick of gum has caused.

Chewing gum was banned in January 1992. Before the ban on chewing gums, measures were already taken to control the sale of chewing gums.

The Singapore Broadcasting Corporation – now Mediacorp – were not allowed to air commercials on chewing gums and school tuckshops were told to stop selling gums to students.

When chewing gum was banned, import of chewing gum was immediately halted. Full stop. However, a bit of leniency was shown when a transitional period was given to shops to clear their existing stocks before the ban was enforced in full effect. Opinions about the chewing gum ban was divided.


The Consumer Association of Singapore, SMRT and cleaners felt vindicated that this nuisance will finally be gone while critics such as the chewing gum distributors were unhappy as they had to get rid of their stocks at a loss. Critics advocate more practical approaches such as public education and heavier punishments to no avail.

The opinion of chewing gum ban even went international and was mistaken to be punishable by caning…which is not true, since offenders are only fined or imprisoned.

The ban on chewing gum was partially lifted because of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed with America in March 2004.

Only dentists and pharmacists can issue the gums and the names of every person they sold to has to be taken down. These gums were permitted because they were proven to have health benefits such as nicotine gum and oral dental gum.

The ban was lifted due to the efforts of Phil Crane, a Washington D.C. lobbyist and then-chairman of the United States House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade who commented that the “talks were tough”.


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