Higher allowance factor in teen smoking rise

PHOTO: Higher allowance factor in teen smoking rise

PUTRAJAYA - Higher allowances given by parents is one of the reasons more teenagers are lighting up these days.

Deputy Health Minister Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin said the rise in the cost of living had led to the rise in allowances.

"Instead of spending the money wisely, they buy cigarettes," she told the New Straits Times yesterday.

Parents, said Rosnah, should be more aware of their children's spending habits to help reduce smoking among teenagers.

However, she was quick to point out that other factors, such as the overall environment in which the young were currently raised, including parents who were also smokers, did little to reduce the habit among them.

The ministry's Disease Control Division director Dr Chong Chee Kheong also attributed the rise among teenage smokers to easy access to tobacco products, affordable prices and peer pressure.

Last year, the NST reported Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai stating that in 2006, 21.5 per cent of adults and 18.2 per cent of teenagers, aged between 13 and 15, were smokers.

In 2008, the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance reported that teenage smokers were steadily on the rise and that Malaysia had the highest percentage of teenage smokers, between the age of 13 and 15, compared with other Asean countries.

Nearly 40 per cent of teenage boys and at least, 11 per cent of teenage girls in the country were smokers.

While agreeing with Rosnah, that the increase in spending power had led to more teens taking a drag, Social Institute of Malaysia director Associate Prof Dr Mohamed Fadzil Che Din said it was also due to urges such as wanting to experiment.

"They want try a lot of things, especially those that can make them look cool. Smoking is one activity that can help them to portray such an identity."

He said one way to stop teenagers from smoking was by reasoning with them, especially on the negative effects it had on one's health.