KUALA LUMPUR - Some 20,000 Malaysians die annually due to smoking and the highest number of smokers are men between the ages of 15 and 24.
Releasing the figure yesterday, Deputy health director-general (public health) Datuk Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman said nicotine addiction must be stopped immediately especially among students.
He said the Health Ministry would widen the smoking cessation services beyond the jurisdiction of healthcare services, with an intervention programme targeting at least 30 per cent of secondary schools nationwide by the end of this year.
He said it is hoped that by 2018, the programme will be able to cover all 3,700 secondary schools in the country.
Dr Lokman said statistics on Malaysian smokers and the death toll were considered alarming.
"It is estimated that 38 per cent of men and 1.4 per cent of women smoked, making it about 4.7 million smokers in total.
"Looking at current trends, we must not rest on our laurels especially since it has been found that the highest number of smokers are men in the 15-to-24-year-old age group," he said.
"According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey, Malaysia 2011, up to 71 per cent of current smokers intended to quit smoking, and nearly 50 per cent made attempts to quit.
"However, the awareness among them had not translated into concrete behavioural change," Dr Lokman said.
"Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances known to man and it is, therefore, not surprising that it is difficult for smokers to quit," he said in a press conference after the Kuala Lumpur Nicotine Addiction Conference 2015: Smoking Cessation in Malaysia.