MoH to carry out more substantive research on tobacco use

National 2 minutes, 16 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

THE Ministry of Health (MoH) aims to carry out more substantive research on tobacco use since the introduction of more stringent measures to curb smoking in the past five years.

MoH Deputy Permanent Secretary (Professional) Dr Hjh Maslina Hj Mohsin said it is difficult to assess the impact of amendments made to anti-tobacco legislation as they are relatively recent, adding it may take a generation to see the changes in society.

“Tobacco cessation is not easy, it is an addiction. It may take a generation to see the impact,” she told The Brunei Times, adding that the last study carried out on tobacco use was in 2009.

In 2010, the government amended the Tobacco Order to raise the import duty on tobacco products by 100 per cent, causing cigarette prices to rise from $3 per pack to $8 per pack. The legislation also banned smoking in public areas, such as restaurants, schools, government buildings and shopping malls.

Hefty fines were also levied on people found smoking in public places and restaurants which turned a blind eye to the smoking ban. In 2012, the government further expanded the number of smoke-free areas.

“It’s time we look into it (doing studies on tobacco use) again. Just eyeballing it anecdotally, we see more people coming in on a voluntary basis to smoking cessation clinics,” said Minister of Health Yang Berhormat Dato Paduka Dr Hj Zulkarnain Hj Hanafi.

The ministry provides 17 smoking cessation clinics available at health centres, the National Dental Centre and a district hospital.

“We’re not just limiting it to running it in the Health Promotion Centre, we’re encouraging all heath centres to run smoking cessation clinics as well. In fact, we’re also encouraging private health clinics to run them as well. Trying to make it more accessible and less stigmatising,” said YB Dato Dr Hj Zulkarnain.

The minister said MoH should also take advantage of the use of smartphones and technology to encourage people to stop smoking.

“Our penetration rate for handphones is more than 100 per cent in Brunei. So we should capitalise on the power of the handphone and apps.”

Last year, the MoH launched a new mobile app called ‘STaR – Sihat Tanpa Rokok’ (Healthy Without Smoking) which helps individuals track the number of days they have gone without smoking, as well as provides real-time information about tobacco usage, trends and its dangers.

According to previous reports, there are no licensed importers of cigarettes in Brunei, after the last three importers opted to not renew their licences in 2013.

Dr Hjh Maslina clarified that there is currently no outright ban on the import or sale of cigarettes, but stringent standards outlined under the Tobacco Order must be met before any licences are issued.

The Brunei Times