Anti-Smoking Campaigns Not Deterring Hardcore Smokers

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jun 9 – “Smoking affects productivity in my everyday life.” So said a 30-year-old businessman from Serdang who wanted to be identified as Kaviraaj. He admitted that he was a chain smoker for 10 years before he eventually cut down on the habit. 

“Now, I only smoke occasionally,” said the man who began smoking at the age of 18 due to peer pressure. This habit makes me lazy and less active every day…smoking is enjoyable but the effect is severe. (That is why) I determined to quit smoking after seeing myself getting more unmanageable. Now, I only smoke two packs a month,” he said when contacted by Bernama today. 

He said the decision to quit came from himself and not influenced by anti-smoking campaigns implemented by the government. Another hardcore smoker who wanted to be identified as Chu Yong, 44, said he had tried quitting smoking tens of times before this but never succeeded. 

“Smoking can be a stress relief. My job as a contractor requires me to deal with a lot of pressure and the cigarette has been a ‘good friend’ to me after a hard day at work. It is scary to see the disturbing images of rotting teeth and lungs on cigarette packets but it is very difficult to quit this habit,” he said. 

The two individuals were among people in the country whose attempts to quit smoking came purely from themselves and admitted that the present anti-smoking campaigns did not play a part in their decisions. On Tuesday, Health Minister Datuk Seri S. Subramaniam revealed that the national anti-smoking campaigns were not effective and that the smoking habit in the country was now still high. 

Such a situation where smokers are willing to ‘burn money’ for this silent killer is very alarming. The awareness on the danger it poses has clearly failed to hammer home the message on the hardcore smokers. According to Kepong Health Office former medical officer, Dr Inthirani M. Sivarajah, 58, smoking will give bad impact to the human body in the long run. 

“Smokers are actually aware of the danger it poses but they do not have the initiative to quit. I can say that the campaigns that have been carried out to (make them) change the habit were not successful. The (disturbing) images placed on cigarette packets as a result of smoking does not deter smokers, let alone the campaign,” she told reporters here today. 

She said the willingness to quit should come from the person and the Quit Smoking Clinic available at all government clinics could help the group. The clinics provide direction, guidance and support to smokers who want to quit smoking. In addition, they also provide counseling services, carbon monoxide test, lung function test and medication. 

Dr Inthirani said apart from that, nicotine replacement therapy for smokers with medium and high addiction, as well as periodic health status check (available at the clinics) can also help these people kick the habit. She said a positive health check test could motivate a smoker to quit the habit. 

“For me, the awareness on the danger of the smoking must be instilled from a young age because children are easily influenced. Therefore, various programmes must be implemented from the early education stage so that they can reject this habit,” she said. 

Meanwhile, Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) advertising lecturer, Siti Syamsul Nurin Mohmad Yazam said in order to achieve the objectives of a campaign, there were two factors that needed to be focused on, namely the campaign factor and the environment and health factor. 

“According to a research by Aydin and Marakoglu (2014), the campaign factor covers advertisement, television programmes and smoking prohibition, while the environment and health factor comprise the encouragement and support by family members who are concerned about smokers’ deteriorating health,” she said. 

She said that the campaign will succeed with the presence of health awareness in the smoker. She said, thus, this perspective cannot be taken lightly. She also said a comprehensive communication approach with an emphasis on positive and negative effects in the campaign would contribute in helping the smokers to quit. 

Siti Syamsul Nurin also explained an anti-smoking slogan of a campaign is an important statement to help the public remember the message, but it is only part of the overall message. She said this message shows that they are also part of the campaign as ‘external elements’ to help and support the behavioural change of a smoker. — Bernama

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