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SCMP Letters: Primary students can get across anti-smoking message to parents

Letter from Heidi Lau, executive director, Life Education Activity Programme, published in the SCMP:

Life Education Activity Programme (LEAP) concurs with the undersecretary for food and health, Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee, in advocating that it is important to stop adults around children from smoking in order to prevent children from picking up the habit (“More young children trying smoking according to new survey”, November 9).

Research has shown that children are likely to imitate their parents’ behaviour – healthy and unhealthy. It is said that compared to young people who have not seen their parents drunk, teenagers who have are more than twice as likely to get themselves drunk in a typical month. And those teens who get drunk regularly are three times more likely to use cannabis and smoke cigarettes.

To help kids build self-esteem and stay away from drugs, including cigarettes and alcohol, parents can do many things, and most important of all is to be a good role model for their children.

LEAP, founded in 1994, is the leading drug prevention education organisation in Hong Kong, helping young people establish a healthy lifestyle and become aware of the dangers of drugs and substance abuse. Since 2011, LEAP has been working with the Tobacco Control Office, which has helped enable LEAP to offer its well-established smoking prevention programmes to our primary and secondary students for free.

LEAP’s anti-smoking programmes aim at increasing students’ understanding of the dangers of smoking and the marketing strategies of tobacco companies, as well as helping them develop effective skills to deal with peer pressure.

Professor Chan also acknowledged that children “are very powerful. Many people quit smoking for their children, and a lot of elderly smokers quit for their grandchildren.”

Recognising how children could influence their parents or families, primary students participating in LEAP’s smoking prevention programmes are invited to bring the anti-smoking message home and spread it further to their families and friends.

The feedback from parents has been very positive – more than 80 per cent of the parents expressed willingness to establish a smoke-free family – proving that children could also be very powerful in affecting family habits.

LEAP is one of the several agencies in Hong Kong that offers preventive education to young people and their families. We are encouraged by the drop in the smoking population and would like to applaud the Tobacco Control Office’s plan to continue to strengthen its educational and promotion efforts on the tobacco control front.

18 Nov 2013

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