‘We vaped tar to get high’

Towards a smoke-free future: Students at a boys’ school in PJ taking part in the HEBAT project aimed at raising their awareness of the ill effects of smoking and vaping.

“WHENEVER I want to quit vaping, my heart always tells me not to stop.”

That was the confession of a 15-year-old student who, together with his Form Three friend, had undergone a counselling session with Universiti Malaya Nicotine Addiction Research Group (NARCC) deputy coordinator Assoc Prof Dr Nur Amani @ Natasha Ahmad Tajuddin (pic).

According to Dr Nur Amani, who is a family medicine specialist, the boys said they would pick up pieces of tar from the roadside, crush it and add it to the ejuice before vaping.

“These students say they like it because they get a ‘high’ that is akin to feeling drunk,” she said, adding that the counselling session, where the students were taught how to deal with the urge to vape, was part of the varsity’s HEBAT (Henti, Elak & Basmi Asap Tembakau) project conducted at a boys’ school in Petaling Jaya on Feb 9.

A total of 150 Forms One to Three students participated in the half-day event, which was part of a final year project by the varsity’s medical students.

“We found out through the students themselves that they are all currently smoking, or have tried cigarettes or vape products.

“This is alarming and it makes it even more urgent that the Generational End Game (GEG) plan under the Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill is passed soon,” said Dr Nur Amani.

HEBAT was among several activities carried out as part of the cohort’s community-oriented primary care (COPC) curriculum to produce well-rounded doctors for the future.

In line with the government’s GEG campaign, HEBAT aimed to create awareness among the younger generation of the dangers and detrimental effects of cigarettes and ecigarettes, which are growing increasingly popular among adolescents and young adults.

Last year, the Health and Education Ministries launched the GEG, which is focused on transforming Malaysia into a smoke-free country by 2040.

The main initiative of this campaign is to support the proposed Bill to ban the possession, use and sale of cigarettes and vape products for those born after 2007.

“As aspiring doctors, we believe we play a crucial role in helping realise the country’s aspiration for a smoke-free generation.

“Before our team of 37 medical students headed to the secondary school in PJ, we participated in the ‘Training of Trainers for GEG’ workshop which was organised by the NARCC.

“The workshop was held to equip us with skills and knowledge to engage with adolescents, and to educate them on the harmful effects of smoking and where to get help if they are addicted to nicotine.

“We hope that they will spread the message and educate their peers, thus raising awareness of the ill effects of smoking and vaping,” said HEBAT chief coordinator Roovam Balasubramaniam.

The HEBAT programme included a talk entitled “Smoking is Not Cool”, an exhibition, quizzes, games and activity booths designed to raise awareness among students on the differences between conventional cigarettes, ecigarettes and vape products, as well as the methods to combat smoking addiction.

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