Easy access to cigarettes influences teens to smoke

National 2 minutes, 51 seconds


EASY access to cigarettes was one of the factors found to be influencing smoking continuation among Bruneian male adolescents, according to a recent study.

The qualitative study was comprised of focus group discussions with 43 participants aged from 13 to 17 years old from two government secondary schools in the Bandar area.

The study, which was conducted by Universiti Brunei Darussalam PhD candidate Siti Tajidah Abd Talip from October to November last year, found that 31 partici-pants smoked one to 15 cigarettes per week, while the remaining 12 participants reported they had never smoked at all before.

All participants were found to be aware of the dangers and harmful effects of smoking, and were able to cite many illnesses, diseases and symptoms that result from smoking, she said.

Siti Tajidah said that smoker participants reported it was very easy to find and to get cigarettes whenever they felt they wanted to smoke.

According to them, they were able to gain illicit access to cigarettes through a variety of means, including buying them in packs or as single sticks from peers in school, friends or neighbours.

She also said that some of the participants said that they were able to obtain cigarettes directly from stores including sundry outlets (kedai runcit). “These participants said that they were not questioned about their ages or asked to show any forms of identification by proprietors of the kedai runcit,” Siti Tajidah said.

Some participants also said they stole from or were supplied cigarettes directly from their family members (who also smoke) at home.

Other factors found to influence smoking continuation among the smoker participants were addiction (both biologically to nicotine and psychologically to the habit of smoking) as well as viewing smoking as an activity that provided them with opportunities for socialising and hanging out with their friends and cousins.

Based on the study, the mean age of initiation among the adolescent smoker participants was 11.3 years old.

Besides peer pressure and the perceived advantages of smoking as “fun”, “cool”, “mature”, and as a way to relieve boredom or stress, another main factor found to influence smoking initiation was family as ‘teachers’, the participants said.

The majority of them emphasised that family played an important role in their development of smoking behaviour, through implicit influence such as observation or modeling of family members who smoked, or through direct influence such as verbal persuasion to smoke from their family members.

Some participants said that their parents sometimes tended to be less restrictive about smoking among their children, while some regarded smoking as “normal” and “acceptable” behaviour in their families.

In contrast, participants who were not exposed to family members who smoked at home or who had family members who provided strong anti-smoking socialisation reported less inclination to try smoking.

In concluding, Siti Tajidah said that intervention strategies should focus on changing the smoking and parenting behaviour of parents and changing the attitude and social normative beliefs around smoking (both at a population level and within young adolescents’ environment).

She also suggested strengthening non-smoking policies in schools and other public places where young people congregate. “Future prevention programmes need to be embedded in a comprehensive approach and to involve adolescents, peer groups, parents, schools, the media, community organisations, the government and law enforcement agencies,” she said.

Siti Tajidah presented her study findings yesterday at the Pengiran Anak Puteri Rashidah Sa’adatul Bolkiah Institute of Health Sciences (PAPRSB IHS) at UBD.

The Brunei Times