Materia Medica Malaysiana

December 3, 2007

Indirect ads lure teen smokers

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 11:59 am

NST: BANGKOK: Malaysia has the highest percentage of teenage smokers aged 13 to 15 compared with other Asean countries.
Nearly 40 per cent of teenage boys and at least 11 per cent of teenage girls in this country are smokers.
In comparison, nearly eight per cent of Cambodian teenage boys are smokers and under one per cent of Laos teenage girls are into the habit.
These figures were released by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (Seatca) in its first “Asean Tobacco Control Report Card” yesterday, during the first regional media workshop on tobacco control.
In explaining the results of the 2002 study, Seatca policy development adviser Mary Assunta Kolandai said the high prevalence of teenage smoking is an indication of the indirect advertising by tobacco companies at events targeting teenagers.
These included music concerts, Formula One and World Cup sponsorship.
Direct and indirect tobacco advertising is currently banned in Malaysia’s mass media. However, there is no such ban on the Internet and the short messaging service (SMS), forms of communication popularly used by teenagers.
Kolandai said promotions were now concentrated on fancy cigarette packaging to lure the young.
“These include glow-in-the-dark packaging and designs depicting teenage craze such as hip-hop and fast bikes.”
Anti-smoking campaigns such as “Tak Nak” should continue, said Dr Zarihah Zain, who is senior principal assistant director at the Health Ministry’s Tobacco Control Unit and Framework Convention Tobacco Control Secretariat.
“There will be a lot of public debate when campaigns are run continuously,” she said.
Dr Zarihah said anti-smoking activities should not just be targeted at teenagers, who were less likely to stop if the campaign was not directed at adults as well.
“They will ask why they are being targeted and not adults.”
More male adults smoke in Malaysia (46.4 per cent) compared with Singapore (21.8 per cent), Thailand (36.9 per cent) and Myanmar (42.9 per cent). But Malaysia has the lowest percentage of adult female smokers (1.6 per cent) among Asean countries.
Almost 31 per cent of the adult Asean population are smokers, accounting for 10 per cent of the world’s 1.25 billion adult smokers. Malaysia makes up 2.9 per cent of the total adult smokers in Asean.

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