A life lost spurs teen to speak up against tobacco

Miss Una Hsu, a recent graduate of Victoria Junior College, knows quite a bit about her grandmother even though she has never met her.

The 19-year-old learnt about her through her 48-year-old mother, and one thing in particular stood out from the stories: Miss Hsu's grandmother was a smoker who died about 30 years ago from lung cancer. She was 55.

"I always feel my mother's sense of loss when she talks about my grandmother," said Miss Hsu.

This spurred her to join Youth Advolution for Health, a youth-led health-advocacy programme supported by the Health Promotion Board (HPB). She is among some 300 Singapore youth advocates involved in this year's "Live It Up Without Lighting Up" global movement, which aims to get teenagers around the world to support tobacco control.

The movement is held in conjunction with this week's 15th World Conference on Tobacco or Health. Sixty-five international youth delegates from countries such as Nigeria and the United States have arrived here for the weeklong conference at Suntec Singapore.

At a panel discussion yesterday, experts focused on the topic of female smokers, warning that their numbers are likely to increase worldwide. Global studies have shown that the rate of smoking has peaked among men and is starting to decline, but the same is not true for women.

"The epidemic of smoking among women has not reached its peak," said Professor Sophia Chan, director of the Youth Quitline in Hong Kong. She cited the increased spending power of women and efforts by tobacco companies to market smoking as a way of staying slim as some of the reasons for the trend.

The prevalence of daily smoking among female Singaporeans has increased to 4.2 per cent in 2010 from 3.5 per cent in 2004, according to Singapore's National Health Survey. "Many young women are taking up smoking as a symbol of their liberation and freedom from traditional gender roles," said an HPB spokesman.

Shisha targeted

  • To raise awareness of the harmful effects of shisha smoking, a team of young people will distribute educational materials along the streets of Kampong Glam tomorrow from 7pm to 11pm, as part of a Health Promotion Board (HPB) initiative.
  • SingTel subscribers will receive an MMS message dissuading them from smoking shisha when they are in the vicinity.
  • A nine-minute educational video on the health hazards of shisha smoking, titled Idiot's Guide To Shisha, will be uploaded on YouTube.
  • HPB hopes to raise awareness among young people of the fact that a typical hour-long shisha session is equivalent to smoking 100 or more cigarettes.