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Not all dengue patients with low platelet count need transfusions: Study

SINGAPORE: Dengue patients with critically low platelet counts do not require platelet transfusions to get better, as long they do not have other complications, a recent study found.

The Adult Dengue Platelet Study (ADEPT) involved researchers from Tan Tock Seng Hospital, the National University Hospital, Singapore General Hospital, Changi General Hospital and Malaysia’s University Malaya Medical Centre.

A typical person has a platelet count of between 150,000 and 250,000 per microliter of blood.

About 80 to 90 per cent of patients with dengue will have levels below 100,000, while 10 to 20 per cent of patients will see critically low levels of 20,000 or less. In such cases, they are likely to be admitted to the hospital and receive platelet transfusions to prevent the possibility of internal bleeding.

Only about 5 per cent of dengue patients face complications such as severe bleeding and require transfusions. Findings from the study show that most patients with critically low platelet counts will recover by themselves after a few days. There is no difference in clinical bleeding with or without transfusion in those with a platelet count of less than 20,000 per microlitre.

FOCUS ON SUPPORTIVE CARE

“The issue here is when the platelet count drops to a critically low level, most clinicians will feel unsafe not to do something,” said Professor Leo Yee Sin, director of the Institute of Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. “In other words, most clinicians will go ahead to transfuse platelets to this group of uncomplicated patients and this study shows that it is not necessary to do so.”

A transfusion, just like any medical procedure, runs the risk of side effects like a severe allergic reaction, so researchers say doctors should focus on supportive care.

For instance, dehydration is a key concern for dengue patients, so treatment could include fluid therapy.

Prof Leo said previous retrospective studies done in this area have sparked a shift in how doctors traditionally manage the virus. She hopes this study will further reduce hospital admissions.

A dengue patient will usually get one bag of pooled platelets during a transfusion. One bag will require contributions from four donors. Researchers hope the shift to supportive care will also free up supplies for those who need it – especially in the event of a dengue outbreak.

The World Health Organisation has issued recommendations against transfusions since 2009, but Prof Leo said until this study, there was np conclusive evidence against doing so.

The study enlisted 372 patients between 2010 and 2014 across the four public hospitals in Singapore. It was funded by the National Medical Research Council (NMRC) under STOP-Dengue Translational Clinical Research Programme and coordinated by the Singapore Clinical Research Institute (SCRI).

Researchers from Malaysia and Singapore that took part in the Adult Dengue Platelet Study. (Photo: Chan Luo Er)

The study was recently accepted by Lancet medical journal.

“More of the community doctors are getting more comfortable in taking care of patients in their own clinic setting without referring them to the hospital, without referring them for admission,” said Prof Leo. “I think this trend will continue to shift the focus of dengue care into primary care and leave the more complicated cases in tertiary care.”

Researchers will next look at the cost-effectiveness of transfusions and how resources that are freed up could be used in other ways. They hope to come up with results in a year.

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Singapore film company mm2 Asia sets its sights on the region

SINGAPORE: Singapore film production company mm2 Asia is pushing hard to become a bigger player in Asia, starting with an investment of US$ 12.9 million (S$ 18 million) in nine movies from Singaporean, Hong Kong, Malaysian and Taiwanese filmmakers covering a range of genres.

The titles include the fourth instalment of Singaporean director Jack Neo’s popular Ah Boys To Men franchise and Wonder Boy, the biopic and directorial debut of prominent Singaporean musician Dick Lee starring The Sam Willows’ Benjamin Kheng. Hsieh Chun Yi’s Taiwan romantic drama Take Me To The Moon starring Vivian Sung is also in the pipeline.

Mr Melvin Ang, mm2 Asia’s executive chairman and CEO, told Channel NewsAsia that the company sees “huge opportunities” in Chinese speaking markets around the region.

“Given our small market environment, we have to step up efforts in developing projects that can work in all these markets,” he said. “With this strategy, ‘produced and developed by Singapore talent’ is equally important as compared to ‘produced in Singapore’. This will clearly make our presence stronger as a regional producer in the coming years.”

The development of Singapore cinema is still important to the company, which is headquartered here.

But the company’s further expansion into the region does not mean that it will be holding back on making homegrown films. In fact, mm2 is committed to producing more local movies along with their regional projects, said Mr Ang.

“As of today, in our current slate of projects, mm2 has more than 10 new Singapore movie titles in the pipeline over the next 18 months,” he revealed. “Being present in all the Chinese markets in Asia, mm2 is confident that Singapore talents, given the right opportunities and support, will stand an equal chance to produce quality films that can travel beyond our shores.”

He continued: “We have to identify homegrown talents, particularly in the area of scriptwriters, directors and production talent pool who have the capabilities to develop and execute projects for the growing regional markets. For example, successful Singapore scripts and movies can be adapted or remade in Hong Kong, Taiwan or China.”

When mm2’s extensive slate was unveiled at the Hong Kong Film Mart earlier this month, Ha Yu, veteran Hong Kong actor and executive director of mm2 Hong Kong, said that while the projects were considerably smaller than the usual big budget Chinese co-productions, the mainland audience is still seen as one of mm2’s targets.

The focus with this slate, according to mm2 Asia’s chief content officer Ng Say Yong, is about developing new talent, particularly new directors, and exposing them to work in the region. “Leveraging on our multi-market presence, we welcome companies or individuals looking for collaborative opportunities to identify projects and co-produce content that is compelling and relevant.”

The company has been on an upward trajectory ever since it was listed on the Singapore stock exchange market two years ago – the first movie production company to do so – and has diversified from its roots in film production and financing.

Amongst other moves, it acquired a 51 per cent stake in Singapore 3D animation company Vividthree Productions, procured the exclusive rights to produce and broadcast a Singapore/Malaysia edition of the The Voice from Talpa Global, established its own cinema chain, mmCineplexes, through the ownership of five multiplexes in Malaysia, and most recently announced the proposed purchase of another 13 multiplexes in Malaysia from Lotus Fivestar Cinemas.

The company is best known for being behind Singapore’s most successful franchise – Ah Boys To Men – that generated a combined local box office of more than S$ 22 million from the first three films.

The franchise director Neo told Channel NewsAsia that the fourth instalment will commence filming in June and that it will definitely be released this year. 

“Because 2017 is the 50th anniversary of Singapore’s National Service,” he explained. “This one is going to be about reservists. It’s something most of us have or had to do so many people will relate to this storyline.

“And I’ve also decided to focus on the Armour unit, like all the tanks and artillery. People always gets excited during National Day every year when they see the Armour unit on display.”

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How Ninja Van's 'smart and ruthlessly aggressive' co-founder hooked a big investor

SINGAPORE: Irked at not being able to find a nice-fitting men’s shirt, Lai Chang Wen ditched his five-figure-salary job as a derivatives trader for the risky retail scene – to build his own menswear brand.

It was a decision his parents thought quite mad at the time. Said Mr Lai’s mother Madam Tan Poh Siang: “It was a real shock. I said: ‘You’re a guy (working) in banking. Why would you want to go into something that is about fashion and tailoring?’”

The answer boiled down to simply this: Mr Lai’s fixation with solving problems.  Even if it was in a field he knew next to nothing about.

“Do you think Chang Wen was interested in fashion?” laughed current business partner Shaun Chong, referring to the blue rubber slippers Mr Lai wore for the interview. “Look at what he’s wearing to the office. At least I wear shoes.”

Marcella, a made-to-measure menswear brand, was started in Mr Lai’s own words “when I couldn’t fit into a shirt well. And I couldn’t afford a nicely tailored shirt”.

Unfortunately, the business – which automated the process of translating clients’ body measurements into paper patterns – quickly ran into problems with unreliable courier services. Deliveries were either delayed or lost.

“When anything went wrong, the customers had no way of reaching out to the couriers. They were stuck at home waiting the whole day just for our parcels. That’s not what e-commerce was meant to be,” he said.

And so, once again, he set his mind to fixing the nub of his frustration – by setting up logistics company Ninja Van in 2014 at the age of 27 with co-founders Mr Chong and Boxian Tan, despite “zero experience” in logistics (“all I knew how to do was to receive parcels,” said Mr Lai).

Ninja Van went on to redefine the industry by enabling next-day door-to-door deliveries for e-commerce firms and their customers, at a time when such services were not yet ubiquitous in Singapore and most had to depend on the postal service.

WATCH: How they did it (2:58)

It has been so successful that it has raised S$ 45 million from investors so far, including B Capital Group, a venture capital firm whose founding partner is Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin.

Mr Lai’s journey, and that of Ninja Van, is profiled in Monday’s (March 27) episode of Game Changers, a series about entrepreneurs who reinvent themselves and their industry.

A DO-IT-YOURSELF REVOLUTION

The learning curve was steep and it meant 22-hour work days, sleeping in the office, and even sorting parcels and doing deliveries himself.

“The first few months was hell. Everything was inefficient. We didn’t know what we were supposed to do,” said Mr Lai, now 30. 

Still, they didn’t look to hire logistics industry veterans, who would just bring with them “old tricks”.

Instead, the trio was confident they could leverage on their mathematical and technology skills to improve the delivery process. They examined the entire life cycle of a parcel, from the point when it is picked up to when it’s delivered.

Technology and algorithms were used to improve every process – for example, to calculate the best route a driver should take, or which van should be used to deliver a parcel. This means drivers are able to deliver more parcels in an hour while saving on fuel costs.

Existing logistics providers were then still relying on outdated mail-sorting technology, where delivery documents were usually handwritten and tracking of parcels was difficult. But at Ninja Van, staff used their handphones to scan parcels and find out in an instant where the parcel is heading and what should be done with it.

“The only reason we got to where we were is because our technology was much better than the incumbents at that point in time,” said Mr Lai, acknowledging: “But a lot of them have caught up or are close (now).”

Ninja Van also harnesses crowdsourcing during crunch times, where they activate part-time drivers to help them deliver more parcels and in a shorter period of time, easing the load on their existing drivers.

Mr Lai said: “We make our engineers drive to understand how difficult it is operationally. And we make our operations people think of product specifications, and we try to educate them more about technology.

“We tell them that this is a technology company and here, you get your hands dirty.”

FACEBOOK CO-FOUNDER GIVES THUMBS UP

It is this ethos of Mr Lai that helped sway Mr Saverin’s firm to invest in the start-up. Ninja Van received US$ 30 million in a second round of funding in 2016 from investors including B Capital Group, which will help them expand regionally.

Mr Saverin said: “As soon as I met him, he struck me as a smart and ruthlessly aggressive entrepreneur who would do whatever it takes to get it done.

“The example was just clearly laid in front of me. A mattress on the floor of his office where he would sleep most of the nights, because that’s how hard he worked.”

The billionaire said that Mr Lai was focused on developing the right culture where everyone in the company understood what each other was doing, and weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty while doing so.  

He credits Mr Lai for creating real-time tracking in logistics where control is handed back to the consumer, just like what Uber and Grab did for the taxi industry.

Mr Saverin said: “Innovations like Facebook, even in the early days, were not these out-of-the-box brilliant thinking. It was replicating something that existed in the real world.

“So these are the types of businesses that create new markets and drive through real positive change. They’re not destructing, they’re enabling.”

More about Lai Chang Wen’s story on Game Changers on Monday, March 27, at 8pm SG/HK.

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Countering terrorism and violent extremism key concern for Singapore, region: MFA

SINGAPORE: Countering terrorism and violent extremism is a key concern for Singapore and the region, given the risks posed by returning ISIS fighters as well as the group’s radical propaganda in Southeast Asia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said on Thursday (Mar 23). 

Singapore’s Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan met with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and participated in the Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Global Coalition on the Defeat of ISIS in Washington DC on Wednesday.

MFA said Singapore welcomed the Meeting of the Foreign Ministers, hosted by Mr Tillerson.

“Singapore has consistently supported the coalition’s efforts through contributions of military assets and personnel, and believes in the need for a comprehensive response that encompasses addressing economic, social and political factors,” it said in a statement.

At the meeting, MFA said Dr Balakrishnan and Mr Tillerson reaffirmed the “deep and multi-faceted relations” between Singapore and the US in the areas of defence, economic and security.

They also discussed regional developments as well as ways in which the US could build on its enduring strategic and economic interests in the Asia-Pacific and strengthen its engagement of ASEAN, the ministry added.

Dr Balakrishnan will meet Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker before departing the US for Singapore on Friday, according to MFA.  

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Singapore healthiest country in Asia: Bloomberg index

SINGAPORE: Singapore is the healthiest country in Asia and the fourth healthiest country in the world, according to a new Bloomberg index.

The country beat the likes of Australia (ranked fifth), Japan (seventh), New Zealand (19th) and the United States (34th), losing out only to Italy, Iceland and Switzerland in the Bloomberg 2017 Healthiest Country Index, released in a report on Monday (Mar 20).

Based on information from the World Health Organization, United Nations and the World Bank, the index ranked 163 countries based on variables such as life expectancy, causes of death and health risks such as high blood pressure, tobacco use, malnutrition and the availability of clean water.

Each country was given a health grade equal to its score across these variables minus health risk penalties.

The top 50 ranking:

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2 entertainment outlets at Sentosa Gateway found to have breached licensing rules

SINGAPORE: Two entertainment outlets at Sentosa Gateway were found to have breached licensing controls on Saturday (Mar 18) during a multi-agency operation led by the Clementi Police Division.

The operation, held in the wee hours of Saturday, saw six entertainment outlets along Sentosa Gateway checked for possible contraventions of public entertainment licensing conditions. Officers from the Criminal Investigation Department, Traffic Police and Central Narcotics Bureau supported the operation.              

The checks come nearly a week after a 35-year-old man was stabbed to death at St James Power Station at Sentosa Gateway. Five people have been arrested for the murder and four of them have been charged.

(Photo: Calvin Seah)

Police also conducted checks on 40 people and two people were arrested for using abusive language towards public servants.

Investigations against the two are ongoing, police said.

An enforcement operation against drink driving was also conducted at Telok Blangah Road. A total of 22 motorists were checked.

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NUS tops Asia university ranking for second year running

SINGAPORE: The National University of Singapore (NUS) has retained top spot in the latest Times Higher Education Asia University Rankings published on Thursday (Mar 16).

NUS topped the list in 2016 for the first time since the category was introduced in 2013. Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU), however, lost ground. It ranked joint second with China’s Peking University in 2016, but fell to fourth in the latest list. 

Peking University maintained its second-place ranking and Tsinghua University was ranked third, up two notches from 2016.

The Asia University Rankings use the same indicators as the world rankings, which assesses a university’s strength in five areas – teaching, research, citation, industry income and international outlook. 

However, it places more importance on industry income and research income, as well as productivity in terms of publications, and less emphasis on reputation elements. 

NUS President Professor Tan Chorh Chuan called the university’s ranking “a strong recognition of our Asian and global approach to education and research, as well as the importance we place on making a positive impact on the nation and the community around us.”

He added: “I am grateful to our outstanding faculty and researchers, and our talented students, for their excellent efforts, and for the strong support of the Singapore government.” 

Times Higher Education Rankings editor Phil Baty said that NUS ranked top again despite “very tough competition” from China’s “Beijing giants” – Peking University and Tsinghua University.

“I predicted several years ago that NUS would reach the top, and the university really has established itself as the role model for the entire continent – demonstrating that with decisive leadership, a truly international approach and with the backing of government prepared to invest in higher education, Asian universities can legitimately challenge the traditional Western elites of the US and the UK,” Mr Baty said.

Despite being ranked fourth, NTU Singapore increased its overall score in the Times Higher Education’s Asia University Rankings, achieving 74.2 points, up from 72.9 in 2016. It also continued to improve its scores for teaching, citations and international outlook.

NTU President, Professor Bertil Andersson said, “The competition is of course much keener when you are at the top, with many similarly dynamic and ambitious Asian universities putting up a strong fight. Some fluctuations each year are not unexpected when you are in the top league.”

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Singapore to get 2 new radio stations

SINGAPORE: Singapore will get two new commercial free-to-air radio stations, after the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) awarded the vacant radio frequencies on Monday (Mar 13).

The frequencies – FM89.3 and FM96.3 – were awarded to SPH Radio following an open tender exercise.

One frequency will be used for a new Chinese radio station that caters to those above 50 years of age. The station aims to support active ageing by providing seniors with lifestyle information covering health, wellness and retirement planning, said IMDA in its news release.

The station will also feature Chinese pop and “xin yao” entertainment music from the ’80s and ’90s.

The second station is aimed at raising the financial literacy of listeners. The English-language station aims to educate PMEBs (professionals, managers, executives and businessmen), financial market participants as well as the general audience on money matters, said IMDA.

The new radio stations “will cater to new listener segments and increase the vibrancy of the local radio industry with their unique positioning and programming,” said Patrick Daniel, chairman of SPH Radio and deputy CEO of SPH in a media release.

SPH Radio currently operates three stations.

It said the two new stations will be launched in December.

The new stations will bring the total number of local FM stations to 20.

STRONG INDUSTRY INTEREST

IMDA said its open tender exercise was met with strong industry interest and drew nine proposals from five tenderers.

The proposals included a Tamil radio station by Rex Cinema, a Hindi station with Bollywood music by Asia Today, as well as three proposals by Mediacorp – a Chinese dialect station, a commercial easy-listening English station and a not-for-profit English station targeted at audience above the age of 55.

Said a Mediacorp spokesperson: “The new stations will hopefully provide listeners with even greater variety.”

She added: “Mediacorp has the broadest range of radio platform offerings in Singapore. We are unique in catering to different audience segments and broadcasting in four languages.

“Mediacorp will continue to introduce new programmes and initiatives that engage listeners through the day, not just over the radio but on TV, print, online and at events.

“For example, Class 95’s ‘Back to Class’, where party-goers come dressed in their school uniforms, is drawing a great response from listeners. Gold 905’s ‘Rock of Ages’ and ‘Solid Gold’ parties are sell-out events every time. We recently expanded LOVE 97.2 FM’s morning show, the top radio programme in the morning, into a TV programme on Channel 8, which has been very well received. A recent series on Capital 958, ‘Where are the jobs?’, analysing the job market, has garnered high praise from listeners.”

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Commentary: Smoking is an archaic habit with no place in modern society

Shocking as it sounds, many doctors used to smoke.

The groundbreaking study which first confirmed the link between smoking and lung cancer was carried out on British doctors in the early 1950s. UK Medical Research Council member Sir Richard Doll, who conducted the study chose doctors as his research participants because many of them smoked, and it would be easier to observe what happened to them as a result of smoking.

Within three years of observation, 37 died from lung cancer. All were smokers. The number of deaths rose to 70 after five years. His work provided strong evidence of the dangers of smoking and laid the groundwork for future public debates about smoking

Since then, governments around the world have put in place policies and programmes to stop people from picking up the habit and help smokers kick theirs. For instance, the United States introduced the tobacco advertising ban and tax in the 1960s.

File photograph of a consumer looking at cigarette packs. (Photo: Mediacorp)

Singapore became the first Asian country to ban tobacco advertising in 1971, followed by the banning of smoking in various public places. The Singapore Government has also dramatically increased the excise tax on tobacco since 1983.

The impact of such combination of measures was visibly evident. The proportion of smokers among male Singaporeans aged 18 and above declined from 42 per cent in the late 1970s to 24.3 per cent in 2010, and the per capita consumption of tobacco decreased from 2.36 kilograms to 0.77 kilograms in a short span of 30 years. The incidence of lung cancer also halved from around 60 per 100,000 in the 1980s to 30 per 100,000 today.

Nonetheless, the decline in the proportion of smokers has since hit a plateau over the last ten years, hovering around 23 to 24 per cent in males, and 3.5 to 4 per cent in females, and has not budged since. What this effectively means is that the number of new smokers now equal those who have died from or quit the habit. To lower the proportion of smokers, more aggressive efforts will be required to prevent Singaporeans from picking up the habit.

WILL RAISING THE MINIMUM LEGAL AGE REALLY HELP STEM THE HABIT OF SMOKING?

Senior Minister of State for Health, Dr Amy Khor, announced recently on Thursday that the legal age for smoking and buying tobacco products will be raised from 18 to 21. This will be a much needed boost to Singapore’s efforts at reducing the prevalence of smoking among youths.

Raising the minimum legal age (MLA) makes it harder for them to get tobacco products either directly or through their social networks. More importantly, it contributes toward de-normalising smoking.

95 per cent of smokers in Singapore had their first puff before age 21. Increasing the legal smoking age to 21 reduces youth exposure to tobacco products during their adolescence – a critical stage of life where they are more susceptible to peer pressure, where their psycho-social maturity, including sensation seeking, impulsivity, and future perspective taking, are still not fully developed.

A man passes a tobacco shop on World No Tobacco Day on May 31, 2016. (Photo: AFP)

Detractors may question the rationale for raising the MLA.

Some critics argue that raising the legal smoking age is simply delaying initiation into the habit. But the fact is that those who do not pick up smoking by age 21 are unlikely to ever begin. There is evidence that the younger the adolescent is when he starts smoking, the higher the level of nicotine dependence, and the greater the probability of him becoming a long-term, heavy smoker.

Others may make invidious comparisons. After all, if an 18 to 20 year old can legally marry, drive, consume alcohol or serve national service, why is he not allowed to smoke?

Tobacco smoking is clearly very different from and far outweighs the aforementioned activities when it comes to fatalities. It is deliberately designed to be addictive and is known to cause disease and disabilities in both the smokers, as well as those breathing in secondhand smoke. There is no moderate level of consumption at which tobacco smoking is safe – for the smoker and those around him.  It is a unique product that kills its user when used as instructed.

Another objection is that raising the MLA may lead to the emergence of a black market peddling tobacco products to underage smokers. To deal with that, law enforcement efforts can be intensified, and harsher penalties imposed on the sellers. For instance, New York City stepped up its enforcement and increased penalties for supply of illegal tobacco products when it raised the MLA.

Of course, even with these efforts, it is impossible to entirely curtail a black market. However, future generations of youths will be discouraged from smoking, disease will be averted and lives saved albeit with this negative “side effect”.

ADOPT AN APPROACH THAT IS SYMPATHETIC, EDUCATIONAL AND SUPPORTIVE 

In meting out consequences for underage smokers, we ought to bear in mind that they too are victims of Big Tobacco advertising strategies directed at the aspirations of impressionable youth.

Our best defence would be to adopt an approach that is sympathetic, educational and supportive of their efforts to quit the habit. To successfully curb smoking initiation in our youths, we would do well to ensure adequate enforcement of the MLA on retailers who sell tobacco to minors. 

The debate over the Government’s move to raise the minimum legal age is a reminder that no single silver bullet to reduce smoking prevalence exists. The MLA is only but one of the existing and additional future measures for effective tobacco control. Singapore has banned electronic cigarettes which tobacco companies intentionally market as “safer” to youths. They also claim that heated cigarettes are safer but studies have shown that they have the same nicotine content as traditional cigarettes.

A man smokes a cigarette in front of a store displaying several packages of tobacco. (Photo: Reuters) 

There are other measures that we can consider in the fight against smoking. First, there is evidence that increasing the size of graphic health warnings (GHW) on the cigarette packaging prevents youth smoking initiation, boosts motivation to quit, reduces smoking among adults and sustains smoking cessation. Expanding the size of the GHW is a highly cost-effective control measure that we should consider implementing.

Second, several countries like Australia, France and UK have augmented their GHW with standardised packaging. Also known as “plain packaging”, this requirement removes all branding elements such as colour, image, trademarks, logos and text, and only allows the brand name to be printed in a standardised font, size and location on the pack. This reduces the appeal of the pack, weakens any branding power each product might have, and strengthens the impact of the GHW.

Australia was the first nation in the world to adopt plain packaging in 2012. Even though the health impact of the policy will take years to be fully seen, a post–implementation review published in February 2016 reported that the policy has reduced smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke, and is expected to continue doing so. 

Third, price and taxes are effective tools for tobacco control. According to the World Health Organisation, a 10 per cent increase in tobacco prices will reduce consumption by about 4 per cent in high-income countries. We should raise tobacco taxes further as part of our suite of enhanced control measures, if we think that smoking remains a serious issue even after the MLA has been raised.

Last, internationally, there is a movement to go beyond conventional tobacco control strategies and adopt fundamentally different strategies that aim to eliminate smoking altogether. These are broadly classified as “Endgame Strategies”. Singapore should begin thinking about eliminating smoking completely. We would not be the first country to endorse and adopt this approach. New Zealand, Finland, Canada, Sweden and France have all endorsed the goal of achieving a smoke-free society in the next eight to 23 years.

Smoking was introduced commercially in the 1880s. It is an ancient and archaic habit, and has no place in our modern and progressive society.

Professor Chia Kee Seng is Dean of the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore. 

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RSS Independence retires after nearly two decades of service

SINGAPORE: Nineteen years after it entered operational service, the RSS Independence – one of the first warships wholly designed and built in Singapore – retired on Wednesday (Mar 8).

The Fearless-class patrol vessel, along with its sister ships, was built under a collaborative effort by the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), the Defence Technology Community and the local defence industry. The vessels have been operational since 1996.

The RSS Independence was commissioned by then-Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Tony Tan Keng Yam on Aug 22, 1998, to take over the operational duties of patrol craft RSS Independence to safeguard Singapore’s maritime interests and to maintain its territorial integrity.

The RSN said the RSS Independence will be remembered for its role in rescuing five fishermen from their capsized fishing trawler in the waters off Pedra Branca on Sep 22, 2015.

Former crew of the RSS Independence take a wefie for memory’s sake. (Photo: Xabryna Kek)

The navy added that RSS Independence had “valiantly taken on the duties and was involved in numerous operations at sea, as well as in maritime surveillance, patrol and escort operations”.

It also flew the RSN flag high in a number of important bilateral and multilateral exercises, such as Exercise Malapura, Exercise Singsiam, the Singapore-Indian Maritime Bilateral Exercise and the Western Pacific Naval Symposium Multilateral Sea Exercise.

The RSS Independence has flown the Singapore flag high in various important bilateral and multilateral exercises (Photo: Xabryna Kek)

Speaking at the ceremony, Chief of Navy, Rear-Admiral (RADM) Lai Chung Han paid tribute to RSS Independence and to the generations of its crew members.

He said: “In her years of service, RSS Independence was an integral part of the RSN’s frontline force which protected Singapore’s territorial waters and safeguarded our sea lines of communication, staying true to her motto ‘We Will Defend’.

“The success of RSS Independence would not have been possible without the unwavering dedication, professionalism, tenacity and sacrifice of the generations of officers and crews who have served onboard.”

RSS Independence was decommissioned at a sunset ceremony at Tuas Naval Base on Wednesday evening. Officiated by RADM Lai, the ceremony marked the start of the progressive handing over of duties from the patrol vessels to the new Littoral Mission Vessels (LMV).

RSS Independence (L) with its successor LMV Independence (R). (Photo: Xabryna Kek)

The name RSS Independence along with its operational duties will be handed over to the LMV Independence during a commissioning ceremony on May 5, to be held in conjunction with the RSN’s 50th anniversary celebrations. “The LMVs are faster, more versatile, and equipped with sharper capabilities to further strengthen the RSN’s effectiveness in seaward defence, and the protection of Singapore’s sea lines of communication,” the navy said. The eight LMVs that were added to the navy’s fleet will be fully operational by 2020.

Also present at the decommissioning ceremony were past and present crew members of RSS Independence as well as senior RSN officers.

The RSS Independence’s name and operational duties will be handed over to the LMV Independence (Photo: Xabryna Kek)

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