SINGAPORE -- Ultra-tidy Singapore is lifting its notorious ban on chewing gum after 12 years -- but getting a pack won't be entirely hassle-free.
Wrigley's Orbit gum has just started appearing in pharmacies along with several other brands. Before Singaporeans even think about unwrapping a pack, however, they must submit their names and ID card numbers. If they don't, pharmacists who sell them gum could be jailed up to two years and fined $2,940.
The decision follows new trade talks that included pressure from US Representative Philip Crane, an Illinois Republican, whose state is home to gum giant Wrigley Co. Singapore has also been at pains in recent years to shed its ''nanny state" image and promote itself as a hip, cosmopolitan hub for media and the arts in Asia.
But that has proven a difficult task in a country where films and television shows are often censored, home satellite TV antennas are banned and various books, magazines and even popular songs are outlawed. Fines are levied for spitting or failing to flush public toilets.
Singaporeans, many of whom have long derided the chewing gum ban, seemed unimpressed by the change.
''It's ridiculous that it's easier for 16-year-olds to visit prostitutes than it is to get chewing gum here," said Fayen Wong, a 22-year-old college student. Prostitution is legal in parts of Singapore -- and no registration is required.
This Southeast Asian city-state outlawed the manufacture, import and sale of chewing gum in 1992 after the country's founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, complained that it was fouling streets, buildings, buses and subway trains.
Lee, 80, stepped down as prime minister in 1990 but still wields considerable influence.
Singapore compromised on the gum issue last month during free trade talks with Washington, agreeing to allow only the sale of ''therapeutic" gum in pharmacies, and the free trade pact took effect Jan. 1.
The Health Sciences Authority, said it has allowed the sale of 19 ''medicinal" and ''dental" gum products.