Published: 16 February 2021
Mr Murali Pillai asked the Minister for Home Affairs (a) what steps have been identified by the Central Narcotics Bureau to bring down the number of new drug abusers arrested which stood at 38% of all arrests of drug abusers in 2020; and (b) how it proposes to address the presence of a high number of young persons aged 30 years and below (amounting to 62%) amongst the new drug abusers arrested in 2020.
1. Preventive drug education, or PDE, is the first line of defence in CNB’s drug control approach, to get people not to take up drugs in the first place. Through its PDE initiatives, CNB aims to generate greater public awareness of the harms of drugs, encourage adoption of a drug-free lifestyle, and promote anti-drug advocacy among like-minded individuals and organisations.
2. To inoculate youths against drug abuse, CNB works closely with MOE to incorporate PDE contents within the school syllabus. CNB also engages students through talks, sharing sessions, exhibitions, skits and the After-School Engagement, or ASE, programme. The interactive PDE skit is an effective and popular PDE programme. It focuses on the harmful consequences of drug abuse and teaches students how to lead a drug-free lifestyle. The skit also provides refusal tips through humourous, relatable themes and storylines. In 2019, 82% of primary and secondary schools had participated in at least one PDE programme.
3. CNB works with the Singapore Armed Forces, Singapore Police Force and Singapore Civil Defence Force to engage full-time national servicemen (NSFs). For instance, PDE toolkits and message cards with bite-sized information are provided to NS commanders so that they can engage NSFs under their charge on drug issues. Learning journeys are also organised for Home Team NSFs. Such engagement sessions typically include an anti-drug talk by a CNB officer, a sharing session by an ex-abuser, and a tour of CNB’s heritage gallery.
4. Social media is another key engagement channel. CNB regularly publishes content about drugs targeting the young on its social media platforms. Recently, in August 2020, the #ILiveFor campaign was launched as part of CNB’s efforts to bring the annual Anti-Drug Abuse Campaign online, in order to reach out to more people in light of the COVID-19 situation. Through a series of interactive social media posts including polls, profile features of everyday people, as well as a sticker pack and an Instagram filter game featuring light-hearted messages, the campaign takes a positive, pro-healthy lifestyle spin to encourage the audience to think about what they live for.
5. CNB also works with partners to drive the PDE effort. One of CNB’s key partners is the National Council Against Drug Abuse, or NCADA. NCADA launched a media campaign in March 2020, built around Singapore’s first interactive film titled “HIGH”, directed by local filmmaker Royston Tan. The film had garnered 165,000 unique views on its microsite by the end of the campaign in July 2020. Prior to launch, the film was screened at various Institutes of Higher Learning, reaching over 5,000 students. Each film preview was followed by a Safe Zone Discussion, an interactive platform for students to share their thoughts on the film, on drug abuse and anti-drug advocacy.
6. CNB works with community partners to reinforce and spread the anti-drug message to youths. For instance, CNB supported the Youth Network in Nee Soon Central with its initiatives to get more youths in the constituency to lead or take part in community activities to advocate the drug-free cause, and to build a pool of youth mentors to effect positive influence on their peers.
7. CNB and NCADA engage community partners and volunteers also through the United Against Drugs Coalition and Anti-Drug Abuse Advocacy Network, or A3 Network. The UADC is an anti-drug alliance that rallies support from local organisations to raise awareness of drug abuse in our society, while the A3 Network brings together passionate individuals from different walks of life to educate and empower them to advocate for a drug-free Singapore. As of December 2020, CNB has 788 A3 advocates, out of which 207 are youths, and 71 partner organisations under the UADC.
8. In addition to PDE efforts, MHA made amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act, or MDA, in 2019 to criminalise acts of contamination which facilitate or promote drug abuse. It is now an offence to introduce a drug trafficker to another person. It is also an offence to teach, instruct, or provide information to another person on how to cultivate, manufacture, consume, traffic, import or export drugs.
9. MHA has also strengthened the MDA to better protect children and young persons from the harms of drugs. It is an offence for an adult who possesses illicit drugs, knowing that a child, below 16 years of age, is likely to be present in a place, to knowingly or recklessly leave drugs or drug utensils within easy access of the child. It is also an offence for an adult to permit or not take reasonable steps to prevent a young person (below 21 years old) from consuming illicit drugs in the adult’s possession.
10. CNB will continue to strengthen our PDE efforts and enhance our laws to discourage people from taking up drugs.