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May 31, 2004

Belize teens still smoking

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It has been conclusively proven in numerous studies that smoking a cigarette causes everything from cancer to heart disease to impotence. In the face of that kind of information you’d think that anyone who still chose to light up must either be suicidal or stupid. Well…on the occasion of World No Tobacco Day News 5′s Jacqueline Woods did some research.

Indira Flowers, 17 years old

?Yes, I have tried it one time and it was disgusting and I don?t want to try it again.?

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

Seventeen year old Indira Flowers is one of many young Belizeans who have at least sampled the habit of cigarette smoking. Unfortunately, a recent study conducted by the National Drug Abuse Control Council reveals that–unlike Indira–a large number of students continue to smoke after that first bad taste. One thousand eight hundred and fifty-five students between the ages of thirteen and fourteen years old completed the questionnaires that were sent to schools across the country.

Kym Longsworth, Research/Information Officer, NDACC

?Of the students we surveyed, we use them as a representative sample of the student population. We had thirty-nine point one percent of students in Belize using tobacco in their lifetime at least one time. And twenty percent of those were current smokers smoking between one to ten cigarettes per day.?

Children as young as eight years old have also had a puff. NDACC says the statistics are alarming, particularly since once they are addicted many will continue to smoke for the rest of their lives.

Indira Flowers

?They see adults smoke and they are around people that smoke.?

Kym Longsworth

?Well basically, there was a lot of peer pressure influence and also experimentation. And we noticed that a lot of the students used it at their friend?s home, which means there is not a lot of parental supervision.?

Now that the problem has been recognized and documented, the plan is to see what can be done to address the situation.

Student

“If a Belizean person owns a store and knows that a child is under age they won’t sell the child the cigarettes. If the child goes to a Chiney man, he will sell him it because the Chiney man wants to make money.?

Facilitator

?No, anybody would want to make money. You have to be careful about that sort of thing because anybody with a business wants to make money, whether it?s Belize, Chinese, whomever. And the thing is that if the government ensures that all business people enforce the law, that?s what?s important.”

Today youths from various high schools and institutions came together to discuss the Global Youth Tobacco Survey conducted in Belize and make recommendations on what they believe can be done to help their peers.

Monique Godoy, 15 years old

?Governmental support, because as shown in the research done is that seventy percent of the users of tobacco purchase these tobacco from the stores, and most of them that purchase it is under the age of eighteen. So basically we need the government to put reinforcement on the laws already set based on students purchasing tobacco.?

Veronica Kelly, 14 years old

?It would be best if we had more groups like these and more youths attending because I find out that it?s better when we have it more frequently. They kinda get attached to it and they get used to it and so it has a better influence on them.?

Minister of Health Vildo Marin not only assured the youths of his government’s support, but told the young men and women that there are plans for legislation to ban smoking in a number of public places and make tobacco products less accessible to young people.

Vildo Marin, Minister of Health

?For example I am personally proposing that most of our public buildings and public transportation must be smoke-free and that we should get in touch with the hotel association to ensure that they have smoke-free rooms and that they should designate certain area of their restaurants to be smoke-free. We have to be in line with what other countries are doing. As a matter of fact, I know that in certain parts of the United States you cannot smoke in a bar. But this is something that we need to get from our young people to make sure that we have a smoke free Belize.?

Marin says following feedback from today’s forum with Belizean youths, he hopes to see some changes made in two to three weeks. Jacqueline Woods for News 5.

World No Tobacco Day was designated by the World Health Organization to draw attention to the dangers of smoking and second hand smoke.

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