Smoking on the rise in Sarawak — Dr Jamilah

Front row from right: Dr Nordin, Dr Veronica, Rashidah and others giving tips to students on how to get smokers to quit smoking.

Front row from right: Dr Nordin, Dr Veronica, Rashidah and others giving tips to students on how to get smokers to quit smoking.

MIRI: The prevalence of smoking is on the increase in Sarawak and integrated efforts need to be taken to prevent many including innocent people from dying from tobacco-related diseases.

Quoting the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 1996 and 2015, State Health Department director Dr Jamilah Hashim said the prevalence increased to 25.4 per cent last year from 22.3 per cent in 1996. The percentage is higher than the national prevalence rate of 22.8 per cent and five million of them were Malaysians aged 15 years and above.

“The state’s prevalence is higher in rural areas at 26.4 per cent compared to 16.5 per cent in urban areas.

“Equally worrying is that NHMS 2012 showed that from 1,633 students randomly surveyed Sarawak has the highest percentage in the country of students smoking at 19.6 per cent while the national average is 11.5 per cent and 65 per cent smoked as early as when they were 14 years old,” revealed Dr Jamilah at the state-level presentation of the Blue Ribbon Award here yesterday.

Her text of speech was read by her deputy, Dr Nordin Salleh.

Pustaka Negeri Sarawak chief executive officer Rashidah Bolhassan, Malaysia Health Promotion Board (MySihat) chief executive officer Mohd Zaki Abdul Rahim, acting Miri divisional health officer Dr Veronica Lugah and Miri Hospital director Dr Jack Wong were present.

Dr Jamilah added that the Global Adults Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2011 showed that four in every 10 Malaysians or 7.6 million were exposed to second-hand smoke and Environmental Cigarette Smoke at home, 2.3 million people at their workplaces and seven out of ten were in danger due to second-hand smoke at eateries.

Cigarette smoke carries more than 7,000 dangerous chemicals, hence the likelihood of endangering the lives of all Malaysians and others in the world.

Dr Jamilah added that the World Health Organisation (WHO) said tobacco usage in the Asia Pacific Region had contributed 71 per cent of death due to cancer, 42 per cent of death from other chronic respiratory problems and 10 per cent cardiovascular with two deaths in every minute.

The Sarawak General Hospital death registry also showed 38.01 per cent of deaths were premature, that is before reaching 60 years old.

Dr Jamilah said in view of the seriousness of health hazard posed by the usage of tobacco, the government launched the Blue Ribbon programme by ensuring a smoke-free environment for every government building, office and some public areas like eateries, rest and recreation centres.

She said it is a step towards reducing the health risks caused by cigarette smoke.

Meanwhile, Dr Veronica stressed that The Blue Ribbon programme is a platform to create greater awareness of the dangers of smoking, adding that the award is to recognise and encourage more people to voluntarily make their premises a non-smoking area or smoke-free zone.

During the function, ten premises in the state received the Blue Ribbon Award. They were Pustaka Negeri Sarawak, Kuching; St Columba’s Church, Miri; Chop Hoon Fong, Lawas; Mariner Inn, Limbang; Masjid Al-Taqwa Miri; Residence 21 Sdn Bhd, Miri; and four longhouses – Rumah Panjang Michael, Marudi; Rumah Panjang Jarek, Miri; Rumah Panjang Rapak Baru, Sri Aman; and Rumah Panjang TR Abi, Tinting Lalang, Lubuk Antu.