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February 2, 2011 - A considerable number of United Arab Emirates (UAE) school students would already have tried their first cigarette before the age of 14, according to the data from a recent global survey. Tobacco use among school students at an early age remains a concern for health authorities as new data shows a quantum leap in the number of student smokers over the past five years.
In the UAE data projections show that 40 percent of teenagers between the ages of 13 and 15 are smokers, up from 24 percent five years ago, according to the Ministry of Health. (UAE - very sad.. 40% of teenagers between ages of 13 and 15 smoke..)
Preliminary data from a global survey obtained by Khaleej Times shows that 82.1 percent of the students (both male and female) in the UAE have tried their first cigarette before the age of 14 as compared to 39 percent (surveyed in 2005) who tried their first cigarette at the age of 13 or less. Male students were more likely to start smoking at an early age at 83.7 percent (39.2 percent in 2005) as compared to female students whose numbers stood at 79.4 percent, still a significant increase from the earlier 36.7 percent. However, the number of students surveyed in 2005 was 15,790 as compared to 2,581 in 2010.
The second Ministry of Health-backed Global School-based Student Health Survey (GSHS) was conducted last year (2010) in government schools in coordination with US Centres for Diseases Control (CDC) and the World Health Organisation.
The first survey that was held in 2005 found risk-taking behaviour of youth to be alarming. Even then, tobacco use and smoking was found to be highly prevalent among the youth. In 2005, the number of students who smoked cigarettes over the past 30 days before the survey was conducted was 9.3 percent while 2010 data showed a marginal increase of 9.8 percent.
Nearly 60 percent of the students reported that people smoked in their presence on one or more days during the past seven days. The 2010 GSHS also measured dietary behaviour, hygiene, mental health, physical activity, protective factors, violence and unintentional injury of students in grades 8, 9, and 10. The survey results will help authorities formulate adolescent health programmes in the country. - WELL GET IT DONE ALREADY..
2010 GS -UAE Fact Sheet.
A similar survey conducted by the Dubai Health Authority in private schools showed that 71 percent of the students were cigarette smokers. The survey was conducted under the Tobacco Free Dubai (TFD) campaign between October 2009 and April 2010 and covered 2,457 students.
Dr Maha Ali Hassan, Project Manager of the initiative, said that following the survey, the initiative was taken over by the school health department at the DHA.
“Awareness activities will continue at the school level now,” she said. She also said that a number of smoking cessation clinics had been set up to help smokers quit the habit.
Reference: 82% of students in UAE start smoking before 14, Asma Ali Zain (firstname.lastname@example.org), KhaleejTimes.com, 2/2/2011.
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(United Arab Emirates)