Getting more smokers to kick their ‘toxic’ habit | Daily Express Online

IS SMOKING a big health problem in Malaysia? Yes, it is worrying. The 2019 National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) shows that one in five Malaysians over the age of 15 are smokers. According to the NHMS, there are approximately 4.7 million male smokers and 135,000 female smokers in the country. Smoking prevalence is 45% higher among men in all age groups. Therefore, smoking is a huge cause of concern in Malaysia.


As of January 2019, smoking is banned from lighting in restaurants with enclosed space in Malaysia. Restaurant owners who fail to put up no smoking signs on the premises risk being fined RM3,000 or serving a 6 month prison sentence. The sale of cigarettes to those under 18 has been banned since May 14, 1994.

The two global regions that have a high number of smokers are Southeast Asia and the Balkan region of Europe. According to the World Health Organization, tobacco kills more than 18 million people a year, active and passive smokers. The Center for Disease Control in the United States cites tobacco as the leading cause of death for preventable disease.

Tobacco use increases the likelihood of developing lung cancer, mouth cancer, heart disease, and blood clots. It also increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes and leads to tooth and gum cavities, as well as wrinkled skin. Cigarettes contain many harmful compounds, including tar, acetone (nail polish remover), DDT (pesticides), cadmium (found in batteries), ammonia (floor cleaner), arsenic (found in termite poison), hydrogen cyanide (the gas used in death chambers) and carbon monoxide (the harmful fumes from car exhaust).

Pharmacists foresaw the impending problems caused by the increase in smoking and redoubled their efforts to educate the public about the “toxic” effects of tobacco. Smoking rates in Malaysia have fallen by 0.8% per year since 2012 and we hope to increase these levels in the days to come.

Smoking is a difficult habit to kick, especially when you become addicted to nicotine. We firmly believe, however, that where there is a will, there is a way. Many community pharmacists in Malaysia are Certified Smoking Cessation Providers (CSCSP). The CSCP training program involves participation in a workshop and practical training in smoking cessation clinics in a public hospital. Those who complete this program receive certificates from the Malaysian Pharmacists Society. They then become program ambassadors who work with smokers to design a quit plan. This plan is based on the current state of health of the smoker, his family history, his economic situation and his level of motivation. The impact tobacco can have on members of a smoker’s household, particularly the presence of young children, is also considered in the plan.

The advantages of quitting smoking will be highlighted during the consultations to motivate the smoker who is trying to quit. For example, after 20 minutes of quitting smoking, the heart rate normalizes, after 12 hours of quitting smoking, the level of carbon monoxide in the blood drops to a normal level, after 2 weeks of quitting smoking , the risk of heart attack decreases significantly and lung function improves.

After quitting smoking for up to nine months, shortness of breath and the tendency to cough decrease significantly.

Meanwhile, smokers who haven’t lit for more than five years have as low a risk of stroke as those who have never pulled on a cigarette.

Healthcare professionals like pharmacists will recommend nicotine replacement therapy during the process to help the patient and will also monitor the side effects of these nicotine products. Licensed nicotine products sold under the supervision of pharmacists aim to reduce the patient’s daily addiction to nicotine.

Since the town hall promotes better health for residents of Kota Kinabalu, take the opportunity to get your friends and loved ones to join a “non-smoking KK clan”. Do not hesitate to consult health professionals, including pharmacists, for help. Let’s create a smoke-free environment and, at the same time, use the money we would normally spend on cigarettes for better purposes. Let’s promote a healthy and smoke-free KK and love KK and its residents more.

#Jemima Ho is a qualified pharmacist and past president of the Sabah Pharmaceutical Society

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