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US-Singapore FTA leads to partial lifting of chewing gum ban

New Zealand Herald

27 May 2004

Singapore lifts chewing gum ban for registered users

For 12 years, Singaporeans lived in fear of being caught committing the most heinous crime imaginable: chewing gum.

Now the tightly controlled city-state has lifted its ban on gum - but only registered users will be allowed to indulge.

Gum is being sold for the first time since 1992, but only at chemists, and customers have to supply names and identity cards to buy a pack of Wrigley’s.

Chemists who flout the law could be jailed for up to two years and fined $4700.

The notorious ban was imposed by the country’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, who complained that chewing gum was fouling the streets and turning up on buildings, buses and subway trains.

The sale, importation and manufacture of gum was outlawed in Singapore.

The decision to legalise it was not motivated by a sudden attack of progressiveness. Rather, the ban had become a sticking point in Singapore’s free-trade talks with the US.

At the talks, Representative Philip Crane, whose home state of Illinois is the headquarters of the chewing gum giant Wrigley, applied some pressure. Singapore had no choice but to give way - in part.

The Health Sciences Authority has now allowed the sale of 19 "medicinal" and "dental" gum products, which reached the shelves this week.