I came to live in Singapore in 2004, which was the year the Singapore government relaxed its ban on chewing gum to permit the import of gum that has a therapeutic value. And since chewing gum is allowed solely for this purpose (therapy), citizens like myself must buy our stash from the pharmacy, actually consult with the pharmacist, and sign the Chewing Gum Register. The Register includes your name, ID card number, signature and how many bottles of therapeutic gum were dispensed. If there is no pharmacist on duty at the time you happen by, you are connected by video to an on-duty pharmacist elsewhere who asks a few questions and checks you out through a camera lens before authorizing the purchase. Pharmacists who do not observe these rules could be jailed for up to two years and fined $2,940.
Therapeutic gum available at the pharmacy includes Wrigleys Orbit (for healthy teeth) and Pfizer Inc’s Nicorette.
Since chewing gum is now imported into Singapore arising from the 2004 United States-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (USS-FTA), there is a misconception amongst citizens that this means it is OK to bring your own supply into the country whenever you return home from overseas. Not so—even small quantities for whatever purpose are technically prohibited under the “Regulation of Imports and Exports (Chewing Gum) Regulations.”
Singapore has a global reputation for being the cleanest, tidiest city/country in the world, and it is a well-deserved title. Chewing gum was banned because it was causing serious maintenance problems in high-rise public housing flats, with vandals disposing of spent gum in mailboxes, inside keyholes and even on elevator buttons. Chewing gum left on floors, stairways and pavements in public areas increased the cost of cleaning and damaged cleaning equipment. Gum stuck on the seats of public buses was also considered a problem.
In 1987, the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) began operations. Shortly thereafter, it was reported that vandals were sticking chewing gum on the door sensors of MRT trains, preventing the door from functioning properly and causing disruption of train services. Although the incidents were rare, it was costly, and so the ban was implemented in 1992.
Since 2004, street cleaners have complained about the return of spent wads on our pristine pavements, albeit therapeutic wads. Should this continue, those of us in the Chewing Gum Register might well be rounded up and asked to explain.