Anti-smoking message must be ingrained from a young age

It is unrealistic to expect retailers to stop the highly lucrative sales of cigarettes in the interest of their customers' health (Easy availability of cigarettes the root of smoking problem, by Mr Patrick Tan Siong Kuan; Oct 9).

Since curiosity, peer pressure and parental smoking are some of the factors associated with teenagers picking up this habit, there is need for more youth smoking-prevention and intervention programmes in schools.

The higher prevalence of smoking among youngsters is an almost universal finding in studies that examine tobacco use.

Smoking often commences during adolescence. Once this habit is entrenched, quitting is extremely difficult.

Even a short exposure and low consumption of tobacco may lead to young smokers experiencing nicotine dependence.

Preventing adolescent uptake of tobacco remains a crucial element of efforts to reduce the overall prevalence of smoking and its related diseases and deaths.

Our primary and secondary schools must make smoking prevention a mandatory initiative to promote awareness of its damaging effects, empower students with skills to refuse smoking invitations and advocate a smoke-free lifestyle.

There are responsible non-profit organisations that are committed to improving the life-long health of all Singaporeans through education.

School principals must tap such resources, which are usually delivered free of charge, and may take the form of assembly talks, interactive learning, audio-visual presentations, skits and games. Such programmes are a regular feature in only a small number of our schools.

Preventing adolescent uptake of tobacco remains a crucial element of efforts to reduce the overall prevalence of smoking and its related diseases and deaths.

Since kicking this addictive habit is difficult, some voluntary welfare organisations even conduct smoking cessation programmes to equip students with strategies to overcome tobacco addiction.

Even though the proposed legislative measure limiting access to tobacco products for those under 21 is a welcome move, public education is still needed to discourage our young from starting on tobacco use.

Edmund Khoo Kim Hock

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2017, with the headline 'Anti-smoking message must be ingrained from a young age'. Print Edition | Subscribe