I would like to use this letter to call for the authorities to intensify its anti-smoking campaigns in the country, particularly across schools.
I hope to see a campaign incorporating negative advertising at its core to press home the dangers and negative effects of smoking – one that will make aspiring smokers think twice before getting into the harmful habit.
There should be no shame in pursuing scare tactic-style of campaign, given how the benefits outweigh the negatives.
I lament the fact that anti-smoking campaigns are not as aggressive as they were in the early 2000s. It is also regrettable that 20 per cent of the population – around 40,000 to 50,000 – are still smokers. It is my opinion that anti-smoking posters be designed, printed and posted at high foot traffic zones across schools and higher education institutions in Brunei.
The message should be augmented by a series of yearly informational talks by health authorities, inclusive of anti-smoking videos to be played to build awareness among students on the dangers of smoking.
And why target students? Seventy per cent of smokers pick up the habit at 14, stated the Global School-Based Students Health Survey in 2014. As such, the average age of the smoking population is 17. Alarmingly, 4,000 of the smokers in the survey were under 17.
Thus, if the authorities succeeded in deterring students from smoking at their formative years, then Brunei could drastically reduce the chances of lifetime smokers in the country by nipping the smoking issue in the bud.
Students are also malleable to positive influences than adults. Whenever I advise smokers to smoke responsibly – an example of telling them to smoke six feet from the building – it tends to be the young ones that oblige by my request; not so much the adults or the elderly, however.
The issue extends to those who are repeatedly fined by the authorities. It appears as though their smoking habit outweighs the fines they receive or the second-hand smoke they force passers-by to inhale.
There should be no compromise in the war against smoking. It’s a matter of life and death that has to be taken seriously.