Progress in Controlling Illicit Tobacco Trade in Singapore

ASOG Working Paper Series 21-010

55 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2021

See all articles by Gayle Amul

Gayle Amul

University of Geneva; Ateneo de Manila University - Ateneo School of Government

Date Written: March 9, 2021


Despite increasing industry-funded reports of illicit tobacco trade in Singapore, Singapore’s revenue from tobacco tax has been increasing in the past decade. This is partly because Singapore has one of the highest tobacco tax rates in ASEAN – second only to Thailand’s 70%, estimated at 60% (before the 7% goods and services tax) of cigarette retail price since it has increased tobacco taxes by 10% in 2018. The tobacco industry has been known to inflate illegal tobacco trade statistics to oppose tobacco tax increases (Gallagher et al., 2019). Moreover, the tobacco industry, through industry-funded think-tanks as front groups, has also utilized arguments based on trade, particularly the impact of taxation on illicit tobacco trade, to oppose tobacco tax increases (SEATCA, 2014; Ross, 2015).

Singapore’s progress in reducing smoking prevalence in its population with a comprehensive approach to tobacco control has been showcased as one of the world’s best practices in tobacco control. With tobacco control measures dating back to the 1970s, Singapore’s progress shows the value of comprehensive, long-term goals for public health through a progressive roll-out of complementary tobacco control measures, including tobacco taxation. The tobacco-related burden of disease in Singapore has decreased significantly from 1990 to 2017, for both males and females, compared to the global tobacco burden (See Figure 1).

Singapore presents a good case study of a city-state that has imposed high tobacco taxes with strict law enforcement tackling illicit tobacco trade that led to increased tobacco tax revenues, and that benefits both public health objectives and the government’s economic objectives. This study aims to describe the policy measures that have been implemented by Singapore to address the evasion of its tobacco tax system through illicit tobacco trade.

Keywords: Singapore, illicit tobacco, taxation

Suggested Citation

Amul, Gianna Gayle, Progress in Controlling Illicit Tobacco Trade in Singapore (March 9, 2021). ASOG Working Paper Series 21-010, Available at SSRN: or

Gianna Gayle Amul (Contact Author)

University of Geneva ( email )

102 Bd Carl-Vogt
Genève, CH - 1205

Ateneo de Manila University - Ateneo School of Government ( email )

ASOG – Ateneo de Manila University Loyola Heights
Quezon City, Metro Manila 1108

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