11.4pc of smokers found to be below 17

|     Rokiah Mahmud     |

IT IS not under the purview of the Ministry of Education to deal with or take action against students found smoking beyond school areas, Minister of Education Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Hamzah bin Haji Sulaiman said at the 15th Legislative Council (LegCo) meeting yesterday.

He added, however, that the ministry always raises awareness on the issue of smoking within school confines.

Minister of Health Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar, meanwhile, presented statistics on youth smoking.

“Based on the Cross-sectional STEPwise Approach to Surveillance (STEPS) Population Survey of NCDs carried out in 2016, it was found that 19.9 per cent of smokers were individuals 18 years old and above, while 11.4 per cent were teenagers below 17 years old. This translate to 4,000 smokers, mostly comprised of male students and some female students,” he said.

The Minister of Health also laid out the findings from the Global School-based Students Health Survey (a collaborative surveillance project created to help countries measure and assess the behavioural risk factors and protective factors in 10 key areas among young people between 13 and 17 years old) in 2014, noting that the study showed that the average age of smokers was 17, with 70 per cent of them taking up smoking at the age of 14 and even as early as seven.

With regard to the enforcement of rules against underage smoking under the Tobacco Order 2005, Chapter 10, the minister said that the Tobacco Enforcement Unit at the Ministry of Health will seize any tobacco, vape and related smoking products from individuals below the age of 18.

“Apart from facing legal action, these teenagers are required to register themselves at the ministry’s Smoking Cessation Services section,” he added.

“For the second offence, each of them will face a compound fine of BND100, while for the third offence the fine will be BND300. In 2018, the ministry seized a total of 42 tobacco and vape products from individuals below the age of 17.”

Minister of Health Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar speaks during the 15th Legislative Council meeting. – RAHWANI ZAHARI