Johor turns to IMFree programme to stub out smoking

JOHOR BARU: Johor wants to reduce the number of smokers in the state and is reaching out to youngsters to stop them from smoking through the IMFree programme.

It is an edutainment programme designed for schoolchildren to ensure they will remain non-smokers for life.

State health and environment committee chairman R. Vidyanathan said continuous efforts were needed from all stakeholders to ensure the target could be achieved.

He said the state government would reach out to more of the younger generation to create awareness on the dangers of smoking.

“Achieving the target depends very much on our efforts towards creating a smoke-free environment not only inside but also outside schools, ’’ said Vidyanathan.

He said the objective of IMFree was to ensure those born from 2009 onwards remained non-smokers throughout their lives.

Vidyanathan said up to June this year, 97 schools in the state have been incorporated into the programme, with 11,134 pupils maintaining smoke-free status.

He said last year the Education Ministry conducted a cohort study to evaluate the effectiveness of the IMFree programme.

Vidyanathan said some 1,561 Year Four pupils from 36 primary schools have participated in the pilot project which was started in 2016.

“The results of the study showed that knowledge on the risk of smoking behaviour among participating pupils has increased, ’’ he said.

He said the study provided useful feedback on how to better improve the programme, including recommending peer support and activities.

“We will improve and empower the programme from time to time to ensure its effectiveness, ’’ he said.

Vidyanathan said according to the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2017 (NHMS2017): Adolescent Health, 9.2% teenagers between 13 and 17 years old who smoked cigarettes on one or more days in Johor were current cigarette smokers.

This is lower than the reported national figure at 13.8%.

He said the worrying fact was the advent of vape availability in Johor.

He said the numbers may show an increasing trend in the future.

“Hopefully, the incorporation of vape as part of the tobacco control programme in the country will help to address the matter, ’’ said Vidyanathan.

He said 827 smokers had registered with Quit Smoking Clinics in Johor in 2018, with 415 smokers or 50.2% quitting the habit.

However, he said the number of smokers registered with the clinics in 2019 was much lower, with 361 smokers and 225 or 62.3% quitting the habit.

“In the first six months of this year, there were 119 smokers registered with the clinics, with 78 or 66% quitting, ’’ said Vidyanathan.

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