Plain packaging in Singapore starting tomorrow. Cigar smokers in Singapore will see plain packaged cigars when they visit their favorite tobacconists tomorrow. From tomorrow, all tobacco products, including pipe tobacco and cigars have to be compliant with the new Singaporean legislation.
The new rules
Singapore is the next country to follow the plain packaging movement started by Australia on December 1st, 2012. It didn’t help much, on the contrary. For years, Australia had seen a decline in the number of smokers, which stopped right after the introduction of plain packaging. Counterfeiting and smuggling rose to a level that forced the Australian government to form a tobacco task force. Even with that knowledge, a handful of countries are following Australia and that number is growing. Singapore is the last eat addition.
But Singapore takes it a step further. Australian cigar smokers are allowed to order cigars for personal consumption from abroad. Taxes have to be paid, yet no plain packaging is required for those orders. Singapore is not making exemptions for personal consumption. From tomorrow, every single tobacco product, including cigars, has to be plain packaged. This effectively means that ordering cigars from overseas is impossible. There is no vendor in the world that will plain package the cigars before shipping. And even if they are willing to do so, it’s close to impossible to get the Singaporean warning labels. Those labels have prints in four different languages. One webshop which is popular amongst Singaporean cigar aficionados announced they won’t ship to Singapore anymore.
One importer, who’s also a tobacconist, said that he will display the cigars without boxes. The cigars will be repacked, with an olive green label over the original ring. But it’s not worth the trouble to adjust the boxes. Since the prices of cigars in Singapore are sky-high, most transactions are in loose cigars anyway. Tobacco tax in Singapore is almost €275/$310 USD per kilo before sales tax. Add in the cost of the high rental, and other costs to run a retail shop, and it’s clear that smoking cigars in Singapore is an expensive hobby.
Another retailer shared his views and said that he expects prices to come down. Not to the level of self-import via online sources, but nonetheless. If all cigars have to be bought within Singapore, the volume of sales goes up. The costs of running a business and retail shop will be spread over more cigars. And that will bring the cost per cigar down.
Davidoff of Geneva didn’t wait for the new rules. The Swiss brand closed down its retail operations earlier this month. The Davidoff shop was located in the ION Orchard mall in the Orchard area of Singapore. According to Forbes, the ION Orchard mall is one of the most prestigious malls in Southeast Asia.
In that light, the strict new legislation will create a more level playing field for importers and tobacconists in Singapore. But the cigar lovers are the victims. Singapore is a small market, only a limited number of cigar brands have a presence. The more adventurous cigar Singaporean cigar smoker can’t try the new blends and brands anymore. Unless a local distributor can be found.