SMOKING among children needs to be dealt with seriously.
A study in 2016 showed that nearly 190,000 smokers in Malaysia were children under the age of 12. In addition, the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2019 estimated that 4.9 million Malaysian children aged 15 and over were smokers. These are significant figures that need to be viewed with great urgency for the future of our youths.
It is imperative that we support the generational endgame (GEG) Bill targeted for implementation in 2025 that prohibits children born from Jan 1, 2007, onwards from smoking, and buying or possessing any type of tobacco and vape products even after they reach the age of 18.
Until then, we have to do everything we can to stop children from smoking and vaping.
According to a recent report (“We want smoking banned”, StarEdu, Aug 7), many children have taken to ecigarettes and do not view vaping as harmful.
It was even reported that a father had gone to a school to scold a teacher who had confiscated his son’s vape device. The father had spent a considerable sum to buy the device for his son.
How did schoolchildren get into the habit of smoking?
Often, children who smoke have family members who are smokers. When they find cigarettes lying around, these children experiment by lighting up and taking a puff. Peer pressure is another factor influencing children to start smoking. In order to be part of a group, some children do not think twice about accepting invitations to smoke.
There are also children who see smoking as a way of rebelling against the adults and commanding “respect” among their peers who are non-smokers.
And there are those who have a desire to smoke and experiment with tobacco products after watching their film idols puffing away.
Smoking can reduce children’s learning productivity, causing their interest in learning to wane and affecting their studies.
Children who are hooked on smoking will have a strong urge to smoke in school. When they are caught doing so and reprimanded for their action, they can be found skipping school and hanging out with other smokers, which will eventually see their school grades decline, causing them to drop out.
Many children become addicted to the nicotine in cigarettes and vape liquids, and become hooked for life. Some venture into drugs and other substances when smoking no longer fulfils their addiction.
The potential of a young child is thus robbed. Therefore, it is paramount that parents and school authorities step in to ensure that no child is lost to smoking.
Parents need to check in on their children regularly. Check their rooms and bags, and keep track of their close friends with whom they hang out.
There will be tell-tale signs to know if your child is smoking such as discoloured lips and clothes with cigarette smell. Matchboxes and lighters are other giveaway signs.
Parents who smoke also need to set a good example by quitting the habit.
Schoolteachers should conduct periodic checks and impromptu spot checks on students. Children caught smoking should be counselled and closely monitored, and their parents informed.
The general public can do their part too by reprimanding children who smoke in public places, especially those wearing school uniforms. Children should thus be afraid to light up and puff knowing that someone is watching them.
The police should also frequent smoking haunts favoured by schoolchildren to stop them from smoking.
We all need to play our roles to wipe out this menace among schoolchildren.