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December 4th, 2013:

HK Dept of Health: Thematic Household Survey on Pattern of Smoking

The statistics quoted from the SCMP editorial on the previous post are taken from the Thematic Household Survey on Pattern of Smoking, released by the Hong Kong Department of Health. While the overall number of smokers have decreased, as the editorial points out, the worrying trend is the increase in youth (or underage) smoking and the number of smokers in the female population.

SCMP: Time to crusade for a smoke-free city

from the SCMP editorial:

Hong Kong’s anti-smoking report card is a cause both for relief and concern. The good news is that the number of people who light up has dropped to an all-time low. The bad news is that more young children may be taking up the habit. Kindergartens are the new battleground in publicity campaigns. The situation is far from reassuring.

According to the Tobacco Control Office, 0.3 per cent of the Primary Four to Six pupils surveyed had smoked a cigarette in the past 30 days, up from 0.2 per cent two years ago. The percentage may seem negligible. But that more than 4,000 primary-school children had smoked – nearly half of them before the age of seven – should set the alarm bells ringing. The health risks associated with tobacco have been well recognised. If smoking is taking root as early as childhood, the problem among future generations may worsen.

Our crusade against smoking has come a long way over the past three decades. The decrease in the smoking population – from 23.3 per cent in 1982 to 10.7 per cent last year – owes much to our effective strategies, which include high tobacco duty, a ban on smoking indoors and tight advertising restrictions. They have been instrumental in helping Hong Kong to achieve the lowest ratio of smokers in the Asia-Pacific region. But we should stay alert to the emerging trends of under-age smoking. There is no room for complacency.

In the long run, Hong Kong stands a chance of being declared smoke-free – when the smoking population drops to just 5 per cent. While we are not far off, this can only be achieved with a more targeted approach. There are still 645,000 smokers. More than 60 per cent have never tried to quit. The percentage of those who have no intention of doing so is even higher, at 85 per cent. Officials admit that encouraging smokers to kick the habit is not easy. A more proactive approach is needed to get the message across. Moving towards a smoke-free society should be our next target. Existing measures should be reviewed to help us move forward.

12 Nov 2013