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HPB to introduce anti-tobacco education in schools

A new anti-tobacco education programme will be introduced in all mainstream schools by 2017, to reduce the prevalence of smoking among adults. 

SINGAPORE: A new anti-tobacco education programme will be introduced in all mainstream schools by 2017.

It is one initiative the Health Promotion Board (HPB) is rolling out, to reduce the prevalence of smoking among adults to 12 per cent by 2020.

The rate of adult smoking prevalence has stabilised, from 13.6 per cent in 2007, to 13.3 per cent in 2013, according to the National Health Surveillance Survey 2013.

There was also a significant drop in smoking prevalence among those aged 18 to 29, from 17.2 per cent in 2007, to 12.7 per cent in 2013.

Assoc Prof Faishal Ibrahim, parliamentary secretary for health, said: "No doubt there has been an improvement. What we need to do is more, in the sense that we want to make sure we continue this journey as we find that tobacco is the single most preventable cause of death and disability in the world."

To prevent initiation of smoking among youth, the HPB will implement a pilot "No to Tobacco" programme in 10 schools in two years.

It aims to implement it in all schools by 2017.

Schools have the option to incorporate the programme as part of their curriculum or have it during the post-examination period.

Vasuki Utravathy, deputy director of substance abuse at HPB, said: "Issues such as peer pressure, the different types of tobacco products out there, why they should say no, the harmful effects, the benefits of a smoke-free lifestyle… I think the key lesson that is going to be included is opportunity for the students to role-play how they can say no to tobacco products."

By 2020, the number of smoking cessation touch points will also increase nationwide, from 150 to 600.

These are retail pharmacies and healthcare institutes where smokers can receive counselling.

For ex-smoker Muhammad Isbahi Diman, such support would have been helpful.

He said: "In the past there was no ‘I Quit’ (campaign), or there was no support group that assured me or assisted me. Along the way, personnel from ‘I Quit’ did constantly SMS me, call me up, then it certainly gave me a kind of assurance that someone cares about me and is supportive towards the journey."

This year, HPB aims to get 10,000 smokers to sign up for their “I Quit” campaign, a big jump from the 3,400 smokers who signed up last year.

They plan to do this by increasing the number of roadshows from 20 to 60, and running them over a longer period of time. 

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