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Sunday September 2, 2007

Teens in Sabah smoking and having sex at early age


KOTA KINABALU: Teenagers in Sabah are taking up smoking at alarmingly high rate and some are having sex as early as the age of 10. 

A research by health officials among suburban teenagers in Telipok near here found that 30.3 % admitted to being regular smokers, which is double the national average of 16% and above the global average of 20%. 

“Nearly, a third of the teenaged respondents admitted to be smokers. It seems to be a common trend among Sabah teenagers. 

“Even more worrying is that the number of young girls taking up smoking has doubled from 4% to 8% in the last 10 years,” Sabah Health Department deputy director Dr Mohd Yusof Ibrahim said at the launching of the Telipok Teen health Clinic here. 

The recent research was conducted by the Telipok Health Clinic to gauge the problem of smoking as well as the sexual habits of teenagers, which is to be used as yardstick by the department for its various public health campaigns. 

The study also noted that 1.8% of the teenagers admitted to having premarital sex with a few disclosing that they had done so at the age of 10.  

“Premarital sex among teenagers, however, seems considerably lower,” he said, in explaining that it could be due to many respondents’ reluctance to answer direct questions on the matter. 

Dr Yusof, however, said based on indirect questions like if they (teenagers) were aware of their friends being smokers or had sex showed a higher average with 66.4% saying they had at least one friend who was a smoker and 16.9% having knowledge of one their friends having sex. 

Dr Yusof did not mention the number of teenagers interviewed during the research. 

He said the Health Ministry found that 40% of the HIV patients in the country were below the age of 29 and in Sabah, 80% of the HIV infected teenagers had contracted it through unhealthy sexual practices. 

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