Crackdown on teenage smokers

A TOTAL of 15 students under the age of 18 had been caught smoking in public this year and ordered to undergo mandatory treatment at a smoking cessation clinic.

This was disclosed during yesterday’s briefing on the hazards of smoking for Department of Youth and Sports officers, who routinely deal with youth and young athletes.

Dk Nurzafiftah Pg Asmadi, a senior nurse at the Health Promotion Centre, said that research showed that students who smoke are three times more likely to consume alcohol, eight times more likely to smoke marijuana and 22 times more likely to abuse cocaine.

It is illegal for people under the age of 18 to smoke in Brunei and the Ministry of Health (MoH) has also implemented a smoking ban in public places, including restaurants, schools, government buildings, bus stations and sidewalks.

People who flout the ban will be issued an on-the-spot fine of $150. However, underage offenders are given a reprieve and sent to counselling first. If they are caught smoking in public a second time, they will be fined.

Dk Nurzafiftah also debunked the myth that cigarette-store.biz/online/al-fakher, a popular pastime among youth, is safer than cigarettes smoking.

“Smoking shisha for 45 minutes is equal to smoking 50 cigarettes,” she noted. “It exposes a person to twice the volume of carbon monoxide and three times the level of nicotine.”

The senior nurse added that sharing a shisha pipe is a risky habit that can lead to dangerous infections such as tuberculosis, herpes and hepatitis.

According to MoH statistics, one in nine Bruneians aged 15 and above are smokers.

The first smoking cessation clinic in Brunei opened at the Berakas ‘A’ Health Centre in 2005, followed by three more clinics in Sengkurong, Tutong and Seria.

On average, the clinics have had a success rate of 36 per cent over the last five years and have treated 729 to date.

“A success rate of over 30 per cent is very high,” said Dr Ernina Nasdzarinah Hj Abdul Rani, officer in charge of the Berakas ‘A’ smoking cessation clinic.

Deputy Director of Youth and Sports II Hj Muhd Zamri Dato Paduka Hj Hamadi said that smoking is widely accepted in Bruneian society and the effects of cigarette smoke is also felt by non-smokers.

“The purpose of this briefing is to enhance the understanding of the officers and employees of the Department of Youth and Sports of the dangers of cigarettes and tobacco to themselves and those around them” he said.

He added: “In sports, athletes who smoke are likely to feel its negative effects despite having a organised and systematic training programme.”

Newly-registered clients at the smoking cessation clinic first fill out the Fagerstrom questionnaire to determine their level of nicotine addiction as well as undergoing a physical examination and a consultation with a doctor to determine whether they need nicotine replacement therapy.

The nicotine skin patches contain only purified nicotine without harmful substances such as ammonia, arsenic and carbon monoxide commonly found in cigarettes.

Dr Ernina Nasdzarinah said that the patches are only a temporary aid for moderately to highly addicted smokers and are applied in conjunction with counselling for better success rates. Over 12 weeks, the dosage of nicotine will become smaller, weaning the body off tobacco.

Patients attend group counselling once a week for the first month and once every fortnight for the next two months. The programme last for six months total, with patients attending sessions once a month for the last three months of treatment.

As many as 50 officers and staff of the Department of Youth and Sports attended the briefing which covered multiple aspects of the dangers of smoking and highlights the steps a smoker can take to stop smoking.

Anyone who seeks to quit smoking can contact the Health Promotion Centre at 2385800 or any one of the four smoking cessation clinics at Berakas A, Sengkurong, Seria and Tutong .

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