How did chewing gum become a banned item in Singapore?

Most of us probably grew up believing that the consumption of chewing gum is banned here in Singapore.

Here’s a newsflash: No law in Singapore bans the consumption of chewing gum.

In other words, chewing a piece of gum in Singapore is not illegal and it certainly wouldn’t get you into serious punishment such as getting caned or the death penalty.

But instead, under the Regulation of Imports and Exports Act, only importing and selling chewing gum and bubble gum is prohibited.

But why did Singapore ban the sales of chewing gum?

One of the objectives of the ban was to prevent vandals from using spent chewing gums to disrupt Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) services.

Because back in the 1980s, when the MRT (which cost the Government $5 billion by the way) started running, irresponsible commuters would stick chewing gum on door sensors of MRT trains, which prevented the doors from functioning properly and causing disruptions in train services.

Another issue created back then was chewing-gum litter in public places such as cinemas, parks, and common areas of housing estates like lifts, staircases, and corridors, as well as the high costs involved to clean up the litter.

Reportedly, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) had spent $150,000 annually just to clean up chewing gum litter.

Hence, to eradicate these problems caused by thoughtless gum chewers, the Singapore government implemented a ban on the sale and import of chewing gum.

Partial lifting of chewing gum ban

In March 2004, after 12 long years, the chewing gum ban was partially lifted after the government allowed the sale of gum under the free-trade agreement signed with the United States of America.

However, only certain types of gum are allowed in Singapore with the ban partially lifted. The permitted gums were restricted to those with therapeutic value, such as nicotine gum to help smokers kick smoking and oral dental gum that helps prevent cavities.

So there you go! The consumption of chewing gum isn’t illegal in Singapore, but importing and selling chewing gum and bubble gum is prohibited in Singapore.