KUALA LUMPUR, August 11 – Reproductive health groups today urged the government to address mental health issues that lead children and young adults to smoke or vape before banning the next generation from smoking or vaping.
The National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2019 found that the overall prevalence of mental health problems among children was 7.9 per cent, with older children aged 10 to 15 showing a higher prevalence of mental health issues (9.5 per cent), when compared to younger children from the ages of five to nine years (5.9 per cent).
According to the NHMS 2017, one in 10 teenagers from Form One to Form Five in Malaysia currently smoke, with the highest smoking prevalence reported among Form Four students at 15.3 per cent. Among Form One to Form Five students, 22 per cent of boys and 5 per cent of girls currently smoke.
“Besides just looking at the whole context of smoking/ vaping from the perspective of treatment, it is imperative that we should shift our focus now to look at it from the ‘credibility gap” context,” Dr Kamal Kenny, chairman of the Federation of Reproductive Health Associations of Malaysia (FRHAM), said in a statement today.
“We need to come together to rephrase the need to ban smoking among young people by taking into account the level of distress and cultural conceptualisation of stigma in addressing this problem.
“In our quest to ban vaping/ smoking, it is important that we consolidate our efforts and work towards addressing the probable issues faced by young people. Current efforts by many agencies working towards this objective are commendable.”
He called for sustainable programmes with suitable materials for children and adolescents to mitigate smoking or vaping, noting that many young people have picked up the habit to deal with emotional issues.
The contentious Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill 2022 – which seeks to ban the sale to, and purchase, possession, and use of tobacco and vape products for anyone born from January 1, 2007, touted as a “generational end game” (GEG) – was deferred from a vote in the last Dewan Rakyat meeting for a review by a new parliamentary special select committee chaired by Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.