A new study has said 4 out of 10 school-going children in Bangladesh have smoked their first cigarette before reaching the age of 10, a UNB report has said.
The study reveals that, among the surveyed students, 9% of them had had their first puff by the time they were 10 and the percentage of boys is much higher than that of girls, with 15.8% of boys compared to 4.8 % of girls.
A total of 3,113 students from 52 schools participated in the study, titled “Prevalence of tobacco use and its contributing factors among adolescents in Bangladesh: Results from a population-based study.”
Dr Sheikh Mohammed Shariful Islam, Research Officer AKM Mainuddin and Senior Research Officer Faiz Ahmed Bhuiyan of the International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research (icddr,b) and
Dr Kamrun Nahar Chowdhury of the National Centre for Control of Rheumatic Fever and Heart Disease, Dhaka jointly conducted the study in 2016.
The study further shows that among the 9% of students who smoke, 2% of them continue to smoke regularly. In addition to smoking cigarettes, 6% of the aforementioned 9% have used other tobacco products.
Of the surveyed students, 1% reported that they are heavily dependent on cigarettes and cannot start their day without it. However, during the interviews, about 70% of current student smokers voiced their desire to quit and more than 85% said they had tried to quit, but had failed.
Nine out of 10 (or 90%) reported that they had never received professional help to stop smoking.
"Adolescents are being influenced to smoke by their peers, smoker parents and siblings, and tobacco advertisements," said principal author of the study Dr Shariful.
The study also reveals that 35% of the surveyed students reported being exposed to second-hand smoking in their homes while 42.2% were exposed to it in public areas.
According to the study, nearly 38% of the smokers regularly purchase cigarettes from stalls and shops, with 97.8% of them facing no barriers due to their young age. Nearly 10% of them were offered free cigarettes by tobacco company representatives.
The researchers explained that current tobacco control programmes need to be strengthened and existing policies need to be reinforced; otherwise, tobacco attributed morbidity and mortality rates will continue to rise.
“Both health facilities and the community in general need to support and develop smoking cessation activities to check tobacco use in children,” they added.