Common Misconceptions and Future Intention to Smoke among Secondary School Students in Malaysia


Background: The prevalence of smoking among secondary school children continues to remain unchangedover the last 3 decades even though awareness regarding the health effects of smoking is increasing. Commonmisconceptions about smoking and parental influence could be factors influencing future intentions to smokeamong these students. Hence, we looked at the common misconceptions as well as student perceptions abouttheir future intention to smoke among Form 4 students in Shah Alam, Malaysia. Materials and
Methods: Thisstudy was conducted by distribution of a questionnaire developed as part of the Global Youth Tobacco Survey toForm 4 student in 3 schools at Shah Alam.
Results: Prevalence of smoking (current smokers) was 7.5%. Almosthalf of the children came from families where one or both parents smoked and a third of the parents had nodiscussion regarding consequences of smoking with them. A large number of students were classified as “triers”as they had tried smoking and were unsure of whether they would not be smoking in the future. Contrary toour expectations, students generally felt smoking did make one feel more uncomfortable and helped one toreduce body weight. Most students seemed to be aware of the ill-effects of smoking on health. They felt they hadreceived adequate information from school regarding the effects on smoking on health.
Conclusions: Our studyshowed that even though Form 4 students in Shah Alam were knowledgeable about ill-effects of smoking andwere taught so as part of their school curriculum, the prevalence of smoking was still high. Students in the “triergroup” represent a potential group of future smokers and strategies targeting tobacco control may be aimed attackling these vulnerable individuals. Efforts are also needed to help educate secondary school children aboutcommon misconceptions and dispel myths associated with cigarette smoking.