Dear smokers and vapers...
Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Please stop vaping,
I beg of you.
I think you should stop smoking Abah (father) because you have a baby in the house and the baby could grow up to be a smoker.
Smoking can kill you fast. I warn you to stop.
You’ve stopped smoking,
Now stop vaping,
Your vape is stinky.
I know you smoke and I think you know the dangers of smoking. I can only advise you to quit. Only you can stop yourself.l Excerpts from letters written by SK Sri Petaling pupils under the NARCC smoking prevention programme
THEY tried their best to shake it off (yes, like that Taylor Swift song) but the primary kids of SK Sri Petaling just couldn’t get rid of the sticky notes.
The pupils did the ‘nicotine dance’, where they placed sticky notes on their bodies and tried to shake it off by dancing.
The exercise – which was part of the smoking prevention programme organised by Universiti Malaya’s Nicotine Addiction Research & Collaboration Group (NARCC) – was to help them understand the struggles of a nicotine addict so that they’ll think twice before smoking or vaping.
Held on Oct 10, the programme for over 300 teachers and pupils covered talks and activities on puberty and smoking prevention.
During the two-hour session, pupils also penned down their messages to smokers and vapers, before reading it out to their friends.
Programme lead Dr Nur Amani@Natasha Ahmad Tajuddin started the initiative in 2015 with primary school pupils. It was expanded to secondary schools last year.
“We’ve reached over 2,000 students to date.
“We’re looking at more schools after we train a new batch of UM students to conduct tobacco prevention and cessation advocacy next month.”
Dr Nur Amani, who is also a medical doctor, said a talk on puberty was included in the programme to explain how hormonal changes can lead to curious behaviour.
“Children must know that their bodies are changing and this comes with the urge to experience new things like smoking and vaping, without knowing the consequences and harm involved, ” she said, adding that the dangers of e-cigarettes and vape (ECV) was introduced this year because of the sudden spike in its use.
“We have at least six popular local celebrities who are promoting it on social media. They have a huge fan base among the young so we’re very worried.
“ECV are also easily available and the sellers are targeting kids. We want children to know that it’s not just water vapour that they are inhaling – 19 vape-related deaths have been reported in the US recently so this is not a harmless product, ” she said.
The Tobacco and E-cigarette Survey among Malaysian Adolescents 2016 (Tecma) revealed that more young girls are experimenting with ECV for the first time as compared to cigarettes, said Dr Nawwal Alwani Mohd Radzi.
“It doesn’t smell like burning tobacco so girls tend to gravitate towards ECV.
“But although tar is absent in ECV, the nicotine in the e-juices can still give teeth a yellow tinge.
“Nicotine becomes yellowish in hue when it comes into contact with the oxygen molecule, and it limits blood flow in oral tissue, masking the symptoms of gum disease such as bleeding gums, ” the dentist and UM PhD student said.
The fact that ECV are not regulated is scary, she said.
UM Specialist Centre consultant pediatrician and pediatric endocrinologist Dr Azriyanti Anuar Zaini, who co-authored a book on puberty for adolescents with Dr Amani, said it’s crucial for children to get the message right.
“When they hit puberty, they go through emotional, physical and hormonal changes. They want to try things. We must give them knowledge so that whatever comes their way, they will know to make the right decisions, ” she said, citing weight management as an example.
If children understand that a balanced diet and exercise is the most effective way to manage their weight and health, they won’t turn to smoking or vaping to do so no matter what they see on social media.
“It’s at this young age that we must make sure they get all the correct information so that they have a solid foundation to make decisions for themselves going through the challenges of puberty.”
The school’s counselling and guidance teacher Wan Ahmad Firdaus Wan Muslimin, 33, and Bahasa Melayu teacher Roziati Ahmad Yahaya, 53, described the programme as beneficial and important.
“Children are exposed to unhealthy pursuits like vaping on social media. And these devices are easily available.
“If children know the dangers of smoking and vaping, they won’t succumb to peer pressure to try it, ” said Wan Ahmad Firdaus.
Roziati said there are many new ECV devices in the market. Teachers, she said, must be kept updated so that they can help prevent pupils from picking up the habit.
“I’ve seen not just fathers, but mothers too, vaping in restaurants. We must make sure children know that this is not good for them especially if their families are not talking about it, ” she said, urging parents to set a good example for their kids.
NARCC conducts the programme for free.
For details, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 03-79677896.
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