Saturday, October 01, 2005

Chew on it

Many people who do not live in Singapore, and even some who do, do not understand this matter about chewing gum in Singapore. Chewing gum is not, I repeat, NOT banned in Singapore. So, you can go ahead and chew gum anywhere in Singapore. You will not be arrested, much less incarcerated in the country's famous/notorious Changi Prison for it. Visitors who come to Singapore do not have to jettison their chewing gums or spit them out (now spitting is another matter entirely) before their planes touch down on Singapore soil. You can continue to chew your gums while clearing customs, although I would think that's not very polite.

Rather, the law is against the commercial distribution and sale of chewing gum in Singapore.

Many Singaporeans who return from overseas tend to hide their haul of chewing gum obtained while on holiday or business. This is because they are afraid that customs will seize them and charge them for 'importing' them. Actually, the only time when you need to conceal is when you buy boxes of gum (as against, say, 5 strips). When you bring boxes of gum into the country, the law assumes that you intend to sell or distribute them. It doesn't care that you actually bought them for your friends and relatives who either may never have seen or handled chewing gum before, or are starved of it. There is probably no profit motive behind the act, except perhaps to profit from the goodwill gained.

I am not advocating the practice of concealment at customs checkpoints. If you need to declare, you should declare. Otherwise, don't bring in so many that it raises a genuine concern among the law enforcement officers.

So I repeat - chewing gum is ok in Singapore. Selling chewing gum is NOT ok in Singapore. I hope this clears up the misunderstanding on a myth that even local writers perpetuate.

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