GEORGE TOWN, May 30 — It appears to have become the norm for some eight-year-olds in the country to have taken up smoking.

According to the Penang Consumer Association (CAP) Education Officer NV Subbarrow, this was found out as result of a survey conducted by the CAP on cigarette use among youth.

He said the survey also found that children as young as five to seven years old were exposed to cigarettes when they were asked to buy cigarettes by their fathers.

“Besides, access to cigarettes is also easy as there are traders who sell cigarettes in single sticks... so there is no need to buy a packet. So, from here the children start to learn to buy a cigarette stick and try to smoke it,” he told Bernama.

Thus, in conjunction with World No Tobacco Day tomorrow with the theme ‘Youth’, he called on the government to be more proactive in protecting young people, including children from continuing to be manipulated by the tobacco industry by prohibiting cigarette use among them.

Subbarrow said the Department of Youth and Sports should also be aggressive in providing information and exposure to youth on the major impacts and risks associated with smoking.

“We see the Department of Youth and Sports focusing more on youth talent in sports such as football, but from the standpoint of the dangers of smoking the focus given is very low. This should be given more attention as it is life threatening, not to mention the youth is the hope of our future,” he said, adding that the emphasis on enforcement should also be given priority in addition to parenting which starts at home.

Meanwhile, CAP President Mohideen Abdul Kader said there are about five million smokers in Malaysia and 10 per cent of them are under 19 years old.

“When the CAP conducted a survey in 2019, it was shocked to find that school children were smoking vape and even selling e-liquid refills for e-cigarettes. By the end of 2019, there were about 7,000 e-cigarette flavours on the market. The variety of flavours is made available to entice buyers to make it a habit or make them become addicted to nicotine,” he said.

Citing a special report by Philip Morris in 1981, he said the majority of smokers started smoking in their teens and that today’s youth would become regular consumers of cigarettes in the future by starting to make brand choices at a young age.

In this regard, Mohideen said the government was urged to introduce the Tobacco Control Act to replace the Control of Tobacco Products Regulation (CTPR) 1993, covered under the Food Act 1983.

He said that without restraints on the industry, it would be impossible to reduce the RM7.4 billion required by the government to treat the major illnesses associated with smoking by 2025.

In addition, he said the Education Ministry could also consider the proposal to make the issue of tobacco control a part of the education syllabus. — Bernama