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'Teen smoking' sparks alarm

Manama, May 26, 2008

One in every four male students in Bahrain's secondary schools is a smoker, it has emerged.

This is compared to one in every five students who smoked only a few years ago, said Bahrain Anti-Smoking Society head Dr Mariam Al Jalahma.

"The results of the recent survey confirms that the number of smokers in schools is increasing all the time," she said.

Dr Al Jalahma was speaking ahead of the 'World No Smoking Day' being marked in Bahrain on Saturday under the theme 'Tobacco Free Youth.'

She said that the number of smokers among secondary school students might be even higher since it excluded women.

Overall in Bahrain, around 40 per cent of the men and 10 per cent of the women are smokers, said Dr Al Jalahma, who is also Health Ministry under-secretary for Primary Care and Public Health.

"The problem is the advertising by cigarette companies and that negates whatever we do in terms of education and awareness campaigns," she said.

"It is important that people are not misguided by advertisements, which show cigarettes, cigars or shishas as elegant elements that make them feel manly, brave and portray themselves as heroes."

Dr Al Jalahma said the society plans to organise several activities, including anti-smoking seminars and its impact on individuals and society, in co-operation with the health and education ministries.

"The seminars will target parents and schoolteachers and will tackle the health and psychological aspects of smoking, while taking into account the religious point of view as well," she said.

"A smoker who has recently quit the habit will also address the students as part of the events."

Health Ministry health education director Dr Amal Al Jowder said tobacco was the leading preventable cause of death in the world.

"This fact is being highlighted in school, community centres and clubs as well as through mass media campaigns," she said.

The celebrations next Saturday will be marked with a felicitation ceremony at the Shaikh Khalifa Institute of Technology in Muharraq.

Several companies, who have initiated no-smoking campaigns among their staff, non-government organisation representatives and individuals, will be honoured at the event, being held under the patronage of Health Minister Dr Faisal Al Hamer.

"Tobacco is the only legal consumer product that kills one-third to one-half of those who use it as intended by its manufacturers, with its victims dying on average 15 years prematurely," said Dr Al Jowder.

"Approximately 1.8 billion young people, aged between 10 and 24, live in our world today with more than 85 per cent found in developing countries.

"Having survived the vulnerable childhood period, these young people are generally healthy.

"However, as the tobacco industry intensifies its efforts to hook new, young and potentially life-long tobacco users, the health of a significant percentage of the world's youth is seriously threatened by their deadly products."

She said the ministry's campaigns stress on the fact that nicotine is a highly addictive substance and experimentation during childhood and adolescence can easily lead to a lifetime of tobacco dependence.

"For the tobacco industry to survive, it must hook new customers to replace those who die or quit, so it must catch them young," said Dr Al Jowder.

"Hence, falling prey to this advertising, most people start smoking before the age of 18, and almost a quarter of these individuals begin using tobacco before the age of 10."

She said the Bahrain statistics are, by and large, consistent with the rest of the world.

She said the recent implementation of the anti-smoking law will give more "teeth" to prosecutors to enforce a ban on smoking, but it still needs "grassroots education" in schools.

Under the new law, people who smoke in their cars with children on board


Tags: Bahrain | alarm | Tobacco | students smoking |

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