Officials hope that highlighting the risks of smoking at a young age will keep children from ever starting
An adult smoker enjoys a cigarette Thursday in Phnom Penh. The government is trying to stop children from smoking.
A PROGRAM by the Ministry of Education, Sport and Youth warning of the dangers of smoking cigarettes will soon be part of the national school curriculum, officials told the Post Thursday.
"Cigarettes share similar properties with opium," said Ton Sa Im, director of the ministry's Pedagogy Research Department. "Smokers have difficulties in quitting smoking, even though it seriously damages their health and that of anyone near them."
She said the ministry is currently updating textbooks for primary and secondary schools, targeting biology and social studies lessons.
"We want students to know the dangers of smoking and avoid starting," she said.
She said the curriculum will specifically target secondary students, as smoking rates among this age group are most worrying to government officials.
Krisna Keo, project manager for the Adventist Development and Relief Agency Cambodia, said he hopes the school program will prevent young people from ever starting to smoke.
WE WANT STUDENTS TO KNOW THE DANGERS OF SMOKING AND AVOID STARTING.
"Some 7.9 percent of children aged 13 to 15 years smoke cigarettes every day," he said, adding that one percent of that number are girls.
He said 53.9 percent of all Cambodians smoke cigarettes, of which nine percent are female.
"They smoke because tobacco companies advertise on television and radio," Krisna Keo said. "They sponsor concerts and promote their products by giving away free samples and telling young people they will look handsome if they smoke."
Krisna Keo said many children also suffer because they live in households where family members smoke. They learn by example or suffer the effects of second-hand smoke.
"Children should know about the health problems they are likely to suffer if they decide to start smoking, including lung cancer and damage to their blood vessels," he said.
He said tobacco companies should be prohibited from advertising in print or broadcast media and the government should impose anti-smoking laws in public spaces.
Meth Rina, 36, a teacher at Tuol Sleng primary school, said the new curriculum could have a big impact on her students.
"Younger people will be less likely to start smoking because teachers will explain the serious health risks," she said.
Some 5.4 million people die each year from smoking-related disease, according to the World Health Organisation. That figure could reach 8.3 million by the year 2030.
About 80 percent of those deaths occur in developing countries suffering from extreme poverty, according to WHO estimates.