Chinese kids picking up smoking

More adolescents are puffing in Beijing, with the number of teens attending high schools and taking up cigarettes increased by more than 50 percent in comparison with previous years, according to a research by Peking University scientists.

The research, led by Peking University Health Science Center researchers for the third time since 2005, surveyed approximately 40,000 students of various educational institutions throughout the capital, asking about smoking habits.

The survey demonstrated 18 percent of students from primary and middle schools took up smoking last year, in comparison to 7 percent of respondents in 2005.

Among the surveyed, almost 23 percent of boys and more than 11 percent of girls picked up smoking last year, to 11 percent and 3 percent of boys and girls respectively four years ago.

According to the results of the research, 51 percent of students attending vocational high school tried cigarettes in 2008, compared to 47 in 2005.

Zhou Dan, one of the leaders of the research said during a news conference that adolescents are taking up smoking, looking on their relatives, friends and also affected by images they have seen in magazines, cinema and other media.

Among other results of the research, there are most common causes of minors’ picking up the habit:

• 83 percent of respondents have seen smoking in movies

• 70 percent learned about smoking from teachers

• 65 percent come from families where at least one of parents is a regular smoker

• 57 percent saw photos in magazines and decided to try

Guo Ming, chief educator at Center for Disease Control in Beijing CDC, said that according to statistics, the majority of adolescent smokers light up occasionally, with almost 80 percent of them lighting up less than 5 cigarettes daily.

However, the age of adolescent smokers is becoming younger, since parents are careless about their kids taking up the vicious habit.

According to Beijing Department of Education and Youth, 1.2 million of teenagers attended primary and middle schools in 2008, and almost 71,000 have been studying in vocational high school.

Guo Ming said the most important thing in the struggle with teenage smoking has been rising the awareness about the hazards of tobacco and persuading kids to never light up in order to have a healthy life.

He also cited the research admitting that media should stop promoting tobacco by showing it in the movies and magazines, as teens want to like their favorite celebrities and pick up smoking, seeing them puffing.

Currently, Beijing Public Health Department launched numerous campaigns educating people about the health risks related to tobacco use.

Since 2008, Government began its struggle with tobacco consumption, as the number of smokers across the country reached 350 million.

In May 2008, the Beijing city council prohibited smoking in enclosed public areas, including airports, bars and restaurants, workplaces, educational and medical facilities and hotels in order to comply with China’s promise to make 2008 Summer Olympics a smoke-free venue.

Two months ago, the Department of Finance increased sales taxes on tobacco products in order to reduce terrible smoking rates.

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