Malaysia: No smoking campaigns having impact on the young

19 February 2018:

BOLD “Tak Nak” or “Say No” to cigarette posters dot government offices and hospitals. It’s hard not to notice them.

The signs have been part of an anti-smoking campaign launched by the government, and as far as visual effects are concerned, it seems to be working.

The campaign hopes to stop people, especially the younger generation, from picking up the bad habit.

The “Tak Nak” campaign, which ran from 2004 to 2010, was one of three programmes launched by the Health Ministry.

There others were the Smoke-Free Generation Initiative; Malaysian Quit Smoking Services, or mQuit Programme, initiated in 2015; and KOTAK or Kesihatan Oral Tanpa Rokok (Oral Health Without Cigarettes) in 2016.

Deputy director-general of health (public health) Datuk Dr Azman Abu Bakar said findings by the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Policy Evaluation Malaysia showed that Malaysia’s anti-smoking campaigns had achieved a high level of public awareness.

“The campaigns generated significant long-term benefits in smoking reduction, by indirectly inducing adult smokers to quit and deterring adolescents from smoking,” he told the New Sunday Times.

Dr Azman said the ministry had taken the measures to control tobacco use among minors by banning the sale of kiddie packs and tobacco products to those under 18.

These, he said, were in line with Article 13 and Article 16 of the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), which bans tobacco product advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and sales to minors.

“Based on a Global Youth Tobacco Survey, smoking prevalence among Malaysians aged 13 to 15 is on a decline, from 20.2 per cent in 2003 to 18.2 per cent in 2009 and 14.8 per cent in 2016.

“This indicates that the measures have had a positive impact on youth.”

He said the implementation of Article 11 (WHO FCTC) on Text Warning and Pictorial Health Warnings (PHWs) had proven effective as ITC findings showed that they had raised awareness among adolescents.

This is where warnings are printed on cigarette or tobacco packs, along with photos of extreme medical cases. Text warnings were first introduced in 1979, and the pictures, in 2014.

He said the trend of smokers in Malaysia from 1996 to 2015 had not significantly changed.

Despite that, the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2015 showed promising results as the prevalence of male smokers dropped from 49.1 per cent to 45.1 per cent, and the prevalence of female smokers remained below five per cent.

On the mQuit programme, he said it was aimed at increasing the participation of healthcare providers in offering quit-smoking services, the number of clients’ registration, people’s accessibility to quit-smoking services as well as to increase the quit rate.

“mQuit is a public-private partnership initiative between the Health Ministry, private agencies and non-governmental organisations.

“It has been expanded to universities and higher learning institutions.

Dr Azman said “There are 162 healthcare providers in the private sector operating mQuit services, and the number of registrations to mQuit services in public clinics and the private health increased from 8,946 in 2012 to 38,704 in 2016.”

On the Smoke-Free Generation Initiative, he said it was a social movement that sought to rebalance the landscape of teenage smoking.

He said the government had proposed that children born in 2009 and beyond would not smoke.

“Activities have been planned (under this initiative) to stop smoking among the young and to get smokers to quit.”

Similarly, the KOTAK programme has helped reduce smoking among school children by having annual screenings, brief preventions and interventions, and advanced interventions.

“Oral health services can prevent and intervene the smoking risk behaviours among school children.”

Dr Azman said: “The establishment of the school oral health services programme enables the oral health team to detect smoking habits.”

Source: New Straits Times


Sign up to receive our monthly newsletter for the latest news and updates on our work in the ASEAN region and beyond.