November 29, 2020

What’s new in 2020? 5 laws that kick in on Jan 1

4 min read

SINGAPORE: When the clock strikes 12 on Tuesday night (Dec 31), Singapore will usher in 2020 with a flurry of fireworks and raucous celebrations. 

The turn of the decade will also see multiple new laws go into effect – read on to keep up with the changes.

LEGAL AGE FOR SMOKING RAISED TO 20

The minimum legal age for the purchase, use, possession, sale and supply of tobacco products will be raised from 19 to 20 years old from Wednesday (Jan 1).

This is the second step of the Government’s three-year plan to progressively raise the minimum legal age to 21 years old. It was debated and passed in Parliament in 2017, as part of the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) (Amendment) Bill.

READ: Legal age for smoking to be gradually raised from 18 to 21

READ: Minimum legal age for smoking to be raised to 19 on Jan 1

Retailers who sell any tobacco products to a person below the minimum legal age could be fined up to S$5,000 for a first offence and S$10,000 for subsequent offences. 

In addition, their tobacco retail licence will be suspended for the first offence and revoked for subsequent offences.

Underage smokers who are caught using, buying or possessing tobacco products could be fined up to S$300.

The minimum legal age will be raised to 21 on Jan 1, 2021.

HARSHER PUNISHMENTS FOR FLOUTING E-SCOOTER FOOTPATH BAN

Electric scooters have been banned from footpaths since Nov 5.

Until the end of today, errant users will be given warnings as part of an advisory period to allow riders to adjust to the new regulations.

However, the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) “zero-tolerance” approach kicks in when the new year begins.

From Jan 1, 2020, those caught riding an e-scooter on footpaths will be liable for a fine of up to S$2,000 and/or jail of up to three months.

E-scooter banned on footpaths Singapore

Food delivery riders who relied on the machines had an option to trade in their e-scooters for cash that ended on Dec 31.

With the move, e-scooter sightings when out and about will likely become rarer.

READ: E-scooter ban on footpaths: 5 things you need to know

READ: Commentary: Can we co-exist with PMDs? Yes, but we need to take a different path

LONG-AWAITED PENAL CODE REFRESH

A refresh of the Penal Code kicks in on Jan 1.

Part of the reforms target crimes brought about by advances in technology, such as voyeurism, “cyber flashing”, – or the sending of unsolicited images of genitals – and doxxing.

READ: Voyeurism, ‘cyber flashing’ to be criminalised from January as legal reforms kick in

The Big Read: Singapore’s voyeurism problem – what’s wrong with men, or the world?

The law will also be harsher on criminals who prey on vulnerable victims and young people.

This covers crimes against those below 14 years old, domestic workers and those with mental or physical disabilities. 

There are also new offences for sex crimes against victims under 18 years old but above 16 – the age of consent for sexual activity.

While the age of consent will be kept at 16, exploitative sexual penetration or sexual grooming of a minor who is between 16 and 18 are now crimes.

Other new offences include sexual communication with a minor below 16, engaging in sexual activity in front of a minor or causing them to look at a sexual image.

Marital immunity for rape will be fully repealed, while attempted suicide will be decriminalised.

Commentary: What took us so long to move against marital immunity for rape?

CIGARETTE BUTTS CAUSING VEGETATION FIRES

Watch where you flick that butt after lighting up.

Authorities will be able to take firmer action against those who do not properly dispose of lighted materials such as cigarette butts.

Starting Jan 1, 2020, a person will be presumed to have substantially contributed to the risk of causing a dangerous fire if that fire occurs within 60 minutes at or near the place where the person “threw, placed, dropped or deposited any thing likely to cause fire, unless the contrary is proven”, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

READ: No ifs or butts: Cigarette rubbish is littering Singapore’s coastline

READ: 350 roadside vegetation fires per year, mostly caused by cigarette butts: MHA

Cigarette butts
Cigarette butts are seen on a patch of soil. (File photo: Hidayah Salamat)

The offence was introduced as part of the Criminal Law Reform Act (CLRA) passed in Parliament on May 6.

Those convicted can be punished with up to seven years’ jail and/or fined.

The first half of 2019 saw a marked spike in the number of vegetation fires with 555 cases, a 56 per cent increase from the 356 cases in the same period last year.

MALAYSIA EATERY SMOKING BAN

For those who have a habit of lighting up, it’s not just the new laws in Singapore that you need to be aware of. There’s something you need to take note of when you cross the causeway.

Malaysia has instituted a ban on smoking at all food establishments to protect the public from exposure to cigarette smoke.

“The ban also covers food stalls and vehicles which provide tables and chairs for people to eat, as well as restaurants on ships and trains,” said the Malaysian Ministry of Health’s director-general of health Noor Hisham Abdullah.

Anyone found guilty of smoking in banned areas can be fined up to RM10,000 (US$2,450) or jailed up to two years.

Something to keep in mind when travelling across the Causeway for a hearty meal.