Archive for the ‘Behaviour / discipline management’ Category

Tougher action against drink driving long overdue

Monday, June 1st, 2020

DON’T drink and drive.

A drunk driver, according to a 2012 study by the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros), is 13 times more likely to cause an accident compared to a sober person.

The Miros study also found that 23.3% of drivers in fatal accidents tested positive for alcohol.

Transport Ministry statistics showed that between 2012 and 2018, there were 1,114 deaths from drink-driving accidents in Malaysia. It was reported last year that drink-driving related accidents were a leading cause of deaths among youth.

This month saw a spate of drink-driving accidents which killed motorists and even a police officer.

At 6am on May 29, a 22-year-old man driving while under the influence of alcohol was involved in a collision on the Federal Highway, leading to the death of a 42-year-old motorcycle pillion rider, while the front rider sustained serious injuries.At 9.20pm on May 27, a 42-year-old fish wholesaler drove against the traffic flow while drunk. His vehicle collided with another car, instantly killing a 41-year-old man in Jalan Pintasan Kuantan.

At 2.10am on May 3, a 44-year-old businessman who was intoxicated behind the wheel caused the death of a 31-year-old policeman who was manning a roadblock at Lekas Highway in Selangor.

The government is taking the drink-driving menace seriously.

The Transport Minister is finalising the proposed amendments for more severe penalties to the Road Transport Act 1987 which will be tabled in the Cabinet next month.The government is considering imposing a mandatory jail sentence on drivers arrested for drink-driving which, under the current provision, is at the discretion of the court. It also proposed higher fines and longer prison terms so that the offenders could be prosecuted at the Sessions Court.

The government is also discussing with the Attorney General’s Chambers for deaths in road crashes caused by drunk drivers to be investigated under Section 302 of the Penal Code for murder or Section 307 of the same law for attempted murder.Kudos to the government for taking swift action to finally enforce tougher laws on drunk drivers. It’s long overdue.

But as Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong pointed out, reducing drink-driving related accidents is not just about enforcement. It is also about a holistic approach to tackle it.It is not just about enforcement with better techniques and procedures, but also about the whole ecosystem – penalties, awareness and alternatives to driving oneself when drunk must work in tandem, he had said.

Education, according to Dr Wee, must be the basis of lasting policy change to curb drink-driving.

As he stressed, education must be the cornerstone of lasting policy change to reduce tragedies caused by those who cause death while driving under the influence.

Those drinking should plan to get someone to drive them home or to take e-hailing.

The sobering fact is that those driving under the influence of alcohol is 13 times more likely to cause an accident compared to a sober person. The action is simple – don’t drink and drive.

NST Leader: Discipline lessons

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020
Now with Covid-19, some who have not done so before must add hand hygiene and social discipline to their breakfast-to-bed curriculum. --BERNAMA picNow with Covid-19, some who have not done so before must add hand hygiene and social discipline to their breakfast-to-bed curriculum. –BERNAMA pic

THE efforts of many disciplined Malaysians are finally bearing fruit. On Saturday, the Health Ministry told the nation that only two new clusters were detected throughout the country. But not all of us are so disciplined. The dashboard of indiscipline says it all. The number of people without police permits trying to cross state borders. Parents taking children to crowded places. Long queues at supermarkets and restaurants, with little concern for social distancing.

These may be pockets of apathy in a large pool of discipline, but all it takes is one in the pocket to spoil it for all of us. We just cannot afford another wave. A second wave is always harsher in all its ways. There is another reason why we must get our discipline right. On Wednesday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) brought us really bad news: Covid-19 may never go away. Like the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), severe acute respiratory syndrome cornonavirus-2, or SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, may become endemic. We have to learn how to live with SARS-CoV-2 like we have learned to live with HIV.

According to WHO, smallpox, caused by the variola virus, is the only disease the world has got rid off, and that, too, in 1980. It would have been eradicated in 1977 when the last natural case was detected but for a laboratory accident in 1978 in Birmingham, England, WHO’s record shows. A very long 3,000 years since it made its first appearance. None of us lives that long. Anything more than 60 years is a bonus. To live out even the six decades requires discipline. After all, being an adult means being disciplined in every way. Now with Covid-19, some who have not done so before must add hand hygiene and social discipline to their breakfast-to-bed curriculum. If we want to be recognised as adults, that is.

We are all anxious to know when will Covid-19 end. But as we have heard from WHO, it may never go away. WHO should know; it has all the experts. It is for this reason it becomes meaningless to attach a timeline to this disease. We just cannot wish it away. There are at least three reasons for this. Firstly, we know little about the disease and the virus that causes it. It is a “where do I begin” story. Is it spread by horseshoe bats as revealed by a researcher in China? What were the intermediate hosts? The pendulum is still swinging between pangolins and civet cats. Now add the United States’ Wuhan whodunnit conspiracy spin to this complicated mix, it turns into an everything-is-possible tale.

Experts say getting rid off a disease, like what we did with smallpox, requires a two-stage process: containment and eradication. Some even add a third before we get to eradication: elimination. Either way, elimination and eradication are distant dreams. Eradication is possible if vaccines come our way. This again is between 18 and 24 months away. It is true that there are some 100 companies around the world trying to develop them. Nowhere is the saying, there is slip between the cup and lips, more true than in the development of vaccines. Many of them fail at the human trial stage. Let’s not hitch our wagon to a star. We are at the containment stage, and it is a long haul. Let’s focus on the here and now. The future is always there for those who take care of the present.

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Schools told to inform police of crime-related activities

Thursday, January 16th, 2020

KOTA KINABALU: All schools in Sabah are advised to liaise with the police if any unwanted incidents, such as crime-related activities, among the students occur.

City Police Chief ACP Habibi Majinji said that the collaboration between the police and schools could eventually help prevent students from being further involved in criminal cases.

“Therefore, as the representatives of the authorities, the police hope that the schools could report and share any information regarding crime-related activities among students.

“We will also send an officer to monitor the situation in the schools as needed. Teachers can immediately report criminal offence involving students to PDRM mediators with the schools,” he said when officiating the Maktab Sabah Parenthood Seminar programme at its Perdana Hall here recently.

The programme was organised by the school and Maktab Sabah Parent and Teacher Association (PIBG) that aims to provide exposure to parenting knowledge, thus helping parents nurture their children into becoming better persons.

Habibi acknowledged that it is not easy to be a parent, especially in this age where parents or guardians need to understand the current situation and find the appropriate ways to educate as well as to guide their children.

“Therefore, it is the responsibility of every parent to equip themselves with the latest skills so that they can effectively carry out their role as parents.

“With all the technology advancement today, parenting is so much different compared to the past. It is more challenging for parents of this age because nowadays children are smarter, especially when it comes to digital technology and most of them already have smartphones as young as five to seven.”

“For teachers in schools, it is more challenging as students are now smarter and more exposed to digital technology, the internet as well as a variety of internal and external threats.

“Therefore, parents and teachers must be more knowledgeable about digital technology than their children and students,” Habibi said.


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Rewire the brain to be rid of bad habits

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019
Neuroplasticity refers to the dynamism of neural structure in our brains. – FILE PIC

NEUROPLASTICITY refers to the dynamism of neural structure in our brains. Studies have shown that our neurons are capable of adapting to change within days if we deliberately practise something that we want to master.

It relates to the saying “practice makes perfect”. Neuroplasticity plays a key role in evolutionary adaptation to support mankind to learn from experience and continue to survive.

For instance, a person who struggles to get up early in the morning faces the challenge of maintaining punctuality. This can be changed by practising a routine of sleeping and waking up early.

Within two to three weeks of practice, he will naturally wake up early and may find it difficult to wake up late as a result of the newly formed neural network in the brain.

A right-handed person, I challenged myself to write with my left hand. I started practising daily and, to my surprise, I could write sentences within a few weeks. As months passed by, I became ambidextrous.

With neuroplasticity, we can change our unwanted habits as well as make adjustments to life events.

For example, if you feel reading is a difficult task, try reading a paragraph per day consistently for one to two weeks without giving up and you may find yourself becoming passionate about reading.

Any newly formed neural network gets stronger with repetition and intensity. It weakens and fades away if no practice or stimuli is given.

If you continuously rehearse a particular activity over a period of time, it becomes second nature. This is the power of neuroplasticity.

We normally avoid the behavioural changes by saying it is too difficult to carry out. In order to form the new neural network, we should adhere to the change process for a few weeks or even months.

With neuroplasticity, you have the power to rewire your brain.


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Educators warned that strict action will be taken against improper conduct

Tuesday, November 19th, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: All educators have been warned that they will face strict action if they commit disciplinary offences, following allegations of a headmaster sending improper messages to students in Telipok, some 21km from here.

Sabah Education and Innovation Minister Datuk Dr Yusof Yacob said while disciplinary investigations were being conducted by both the ministry and police, the male headmaster is still allowed to work.

“This being such a serious case that involves public interest, we have to make sure that everything we do in the probe is correct and according to the law, ” he said when met at the Sabah State Assembly compound here on Tuesday (Nov 19).

He said this will be a warning for every educator out there that stern action will be taken against offenders, as they do not want such actions jeopardising the ministry or the education system.

Dr Yusof said educators have a responsibility to protect those under their care, and that they will not hesitate to expel those involved.

“From the information I’ve received, there are two students who have claimed to be victims, but there could be more, ” he said.

He said it was best to wait for investigations to complete before making further speculations on the case.

It was recently reported that parents of students from the secondary school are riled up after finding out about the alleged text messages to their sons.

The messages were purportedly sent starting last month (October) and some earlier than that, beginning with innocent questions before the texts got more intimate.

A lawyer, Valentino James Tanggar, who has decided to help the parents pro bono, has urged the authorities to conduct their investigations without bias or fear


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Another form of addiction

Tuesday, November 12th, 2019

Dr Muhsin says bullies may be unable to regulate their own behaviour and subsequently become impulsive.

BULLYING can happen anywhere, from the home to social media platforms.

Part one looked at how bullying can happen to anyone, anywhere and anytime. It most likely happens in school, in the workplace, and a place one would least expect – home considered a “safe zone” by most people.

Creativity at Heart co-founder and child therapist Priscilla Ho says the main reason bullying happens at home, or anywhere, is because of messed-up family relationships and dynamics.

But what about in school and beyond the school compound such as cyberbullying?

Bullies are made, not born

As how some parents project expectations onto their offspring, children who may not know how to cope and deal with their emotions and frustrations, would project it onto fellow students.

“Most of the time, children who become bullies are experiencing hurt or bullying as well. Seeing someone else getting hurt is a release of their own pain and feelings, ” says Ho who often conducts anti-bullying workshops with children.

Bullying, she stresses, is a learned behaviour with the intent to harm repetitively when there is a power imbalance. It is also a choice a child makes.“Bullying happens and when a child chooses to take part in a particularly harmful activity and does not stop despite seeing that they are causing harm, ” she notes.

However, the root cause does not lie with the child who is only a product of his or her upbringing.

Ho says most of the time, children who become bullies are experiencing hurt or bullying as well.Ho says most of the time, children who become bullies are experiencing hurt or bullying as well.

“An increasing amount of research is showing that bullying behaviors are developed between toddler and preschool years and further ingrained into a child’s communication style as they continue to progress through primary to secondary school with the behavior unchecked, ” says Ho.

Noting that most bullies are completely unaware of how they are perceived (as a bully), Ho adds that most bullies also have low self-esteem.“The bullying behavior is typically fostered at a very young age. A difficult upbringing can result in low self-esteem, when coupled with aggressive behavior, can create a child who not only lacks communication skills, but feels the need to defend themselves constantly.

“It’s due to this that so many bullies are able to make peace with what they do. They see threats and insults everywhere they look, and in their eyes, everyone else is asking for it. They lash out as a defence mechanism, and then often seek out ‘weaker’ victims to bolster their own sense of superiority, ” she shares.

Universiti Malaya (UM) Department of Psychological Medicine Assoc Prof Dr Muhammad Muhsin Ahmad Zahari explains that a bully may be unable to self regulate their own behaviour and subsequently becomes impulsive, which can lead to physical bullying.

“Bullies want to subdue and dominate another person so they may have a sense of emotional relief after seeing victims suffer emotionally, ” says Dr Muhsin who is also Malaysian Psychiatric Association vice presidentEight in 10 kids face bullyingAccording to Unicef’s Children4Change Survey 2018, an astonishing eight out of 10 surveyed claimed they have encountered bullying in schools.

Administered both online and offline, the nationwide survey – which involved over 2,000 children below the age of 18 – was part of the Kindness Project by the Education Ministry, WOMEN:girls and Unicef.

The survey found that 70% of children had witnessed a peer being made fun of because of how they looked, dressed or walked.

It is also reported that bystanders would intervene by either asking the bully to stop (51%), approach a teacher (46%) or tell a friend (43%).

A total 27% of the respondents were victims of humiliating name calling.

Another 16% were victims of hurtful rumours. Others were bullied through digital platforms, purposely excluded or isolated from their peers, and even physically threatened or hurt.

It was noted that one in two children identified the classroom as a venue for such bullying incidents.

Older children are more likely to have been bullied online, with about a third of those aged 16 to 17, saying they have experienced cyber-bullying.

About 17% of the respondents called for a national anti-bullying law, anti-bullying school policies to be put in place and also educational school programmes to counter bullying.

The Children4Change Survey was carried out to better understand the children’s experiences of bullying from bystanders, victims and bullies’ standpoints, and to determine the types of intervention that children feel would create a safe environment that could protect them from bullying.

A form of addiction

Besides having an outlet to release feelings of hurt and frustration built up from elsewhere, bullies get a thrill out of asserting power.

The million ringgit question is, is bullying behaviour addictive? In Malaysian Mental Health Association president Prof Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj’s opinion, yes it is.

“In most cases, bullying can become addictive because gratification comes in the form of displaying such power, ” he says.Dr Andrew stresses that bullying is a primitive display of power that shouldn’t be tolerated.

Ho agrees saying that bullying becomes a bad habit of the bully so that he or she feels good after asserting power on another.

“They need to feel in charge of someone and to be in control of something. By having a say in someone else’s day, it helps them cope with not having a say in their own.

“If they’ve had a tumultuous upbringing with a lot of big changes that were completely out of their control, they might lash out and assert their dominance over others as a means of coping.

“Major changes and volatile circumstances can make a child feel vulnerable. Hence, they turn to others to victimise in an effort to protect themselves, ” explains Ho.

Dr Muhsin, however, opines that while the bully might have emotional distress and which can be relieved by watching others suffer, not all bullies get the thrill through their victims’ suffering.

“In fact, the most fearful bullies do not feel any sympathy with the victim, ” he says.Seeking out the bullied

When bullied, children may not be able to communicate their fears directly to adults.Instead, Dr Andrew says bullied children (in the primary school age group) usually show symptoms such as refusing to go to school, throwing tantrums and bed-wetting.

“However, symptoms might be more difficult to identify among older bullied children as they tend to be less forthcoming. One common indicator would be a sudden drop in academic performance, ” he says, adding that self-withdrawal is another symptom to look out for.

Noting that it is important for students themselves to identify that they are being bullied, Ho advises students to know their self-worth and be alert towards physical and non-physical “attacks”.

She says a direct physical punch on another student, verbal attacks such as name calling, and emotional attacks such as taking away one’s items (books, stationery); putting sand or waste into another’s drinking bottle; telling others not to “friend” a particular student; spreading rumours; hurtful messages on social media and in person, are all forms of bullying.

“Teachers should be able to identify victims of bullying as they tend to be isolated, keep to themselves, have no friends – which may result in the child halting school, ” says Ho.

Dr Muhsin says teachers and parents should look out for unusual behaviours as they could be indicators of being bullied.

“They may become more sensitive or socially withdrawn. The student might be secretive about the perpetrators as fear and anxiety may be predominant, ” he notes.

Pointing out that the long term effects of being bullied include higher risk of mental illnesses and affected emotional development, Dr Muhsin says victims are usually those who are emotional and would easily break down.

“Bullies would target those who are physically weaker (smaller in size, younger age); have learning disabilities, mental problems such as depression; cannot fit in with the majority of friends; and those with gender problems, among others, ” shares Dr Muhsin.

Pulling the plug on bullies

Bullies gain satisfaction from victims’ reactions, which would usually be sad and scared.

They are intent on upsetting or angering victims just for the sake of “taking away power”.

If you show them you are not sad and scared, they will often lose interest and the bully will lose their own power.

Dr Muhsin says avoiding the “wrong crowd” can limit bullying that could potentially happen.

“Do not mix with groups which show unhealthy relationship towards each other such as exclusion, name calling or physical violence, ” he says.

Another method to make a bully lose interest in the victim is to refrain from reacting emotionally – which could provoke the situation further – and getting the adults involved.

“Informing teachers and parents about what happened can enable can enable quick intervention to stop the bully from inflicting more harm onto others, ” says Dr Muhsin.

Dr Andrew says bullying can become addictive as gratification is in the form of displaying such power.Dr Andrew says bullying can become addictive as gratification is in the form of displaying such power.

Meanwhile, Dr Andrew believes that standing up to a bully and reporting the incident is the most definite way to make the bully lose interest in the victim.

“School children must be made to embrace the concept that bullying is ‘not cool’ and reporting it is the right thing to do, ” he says.

Schools, he adds, must adopt an anti bullying policy and students must be told of the consequences of their actions.

“This is particularly true of residential schools where being bullied (hazing) is taken as part of being toughened up in life. Unfortunately in Malaysia, school bullying has become a systemic problem, partly because of the principle of zero tolerance on bullying is not seen to be institutionalised.

“Adding to this challenge is the reality that bullying among school children has been taken out of the school compound – with cyberbullying among students from the same school, thereby creating a nexus between school bullying and cyberbullying, ” Dr Andrew points out.Ho suggests ignoring the bully and refraining from fighting back is the best way to lose the bully’s interest.

“If it doesn’t work, report to the teacher and also let parents know. Tell the bully face-to-face that I am not for bullying. Why not be friends instead?” says Ho.

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NST Leader: We have to put bullies out of business

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019
Bullying in Malaysia is a serious problem with eight out of 10 having claimed they had encountered bullying in schools, a 2018 nationwide survey by the United Nations Children’s Fund showed. – FILE PIC

THE award of RM616,634.20 to a bully victim by the High Court in Kuala Terengganu on Sunday is unprecedented. That the victim became deaf in his right ear from injuries makes it even more pressing for anti-bully laws to be implemented, and soon.

Nine parties — including five former students, a student affairs senior assistant, former school principal, Education Ministry director-general and the Malaysian government — were ordered to pay exemplary and aggravated damages to the plaintiff.

Bullying in Malaysia is a serious problem with eight out of 10 having claimed they had encountered bullying in schools, a 2018 nationwide survey by the United Nations Children’s Fund showed.

The survey involved over 2,000 children below 18. It also revealed that 70 per cent of children said they had witnessed a peer being bullied.

Respondents called for a national anti-bullying law, anti-bullying school policies and programmes to counter bullying.

A sustained high-profile effort must be carried out to counter bullying because it is a social problem that never really goes away. It is an unwanted, aggressive behaviour among children or teenagers that involves a “real or perceived power imbalance”.

The behaviour is often repeated — both the victim and bully have serious, lasting problems.

Those bullied are often depressed and anxious, and suffer from sleep and eating disorders. Such symptoms may persist into adulthood, say psychologists.

Most random shooting cases in the United States in the 1990s were by shooters who had a history of being bullied.

Take the case of T. Nhaveen and navy cadet officer Zulfarhan Osman Zulkarnain, which received wide media coverage and was a topic on social media that went global with masses questioning the mental health of Malaysian society, especially our youth.

Nhaveen, 18, was viciously assaulted by several youths, which resulted in him becoming brain dead.

He never came out of his coma. Zulfarhan, meanwhile, was tortured by more than 10 students with a steam iron over a missing laptop. He died a few days later. Both cases were in 2017 and are ongoing.

Such senseless and horrific deaths. No decent human being should be made to suffer such a fate. This is the 21st century, not the middle ages. We are not barbarians.

Justice must be served and perpetrators must be made accountable.

The landmark decision should not only act as a deterrent to other bullies, but also a lesson — not only must the bully be held accountable for his actions, it is also the whole chain of actors who have allowed the deed to happen.

How much longer do we have to witness bullies “killing” innocent youths, asks a psychologist? The buck has to stop somewhere, he says, and adds that bullying happens because we allow it to happen.

He also says bullies have to be sent for rehabilitation and taught the value of human life. “Once they have served their time, they should be sent for psychiatric sessions. Victims too, need to undergo similar sessions,” he says.

It would be worthwhile to remember what Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu said — if one remained neutral or silent in unjust situations, then he has chosen to side with the oppressor.

Targeting teens

Saturday, August 24th, 2019

Some of the latest e-cig and vape devices are cheap, as small as your thumb and can even be worn as a watch. Tobacco control experts say awareness among parents and teachers are crucial in keeping this new addiction out of schools.

LET’S be clear – e-cigs and vape (ECV) are electronic drug delivery devices that can be used with the likes of meth and marijuana, warns Universiti Malaya Centre of Addiction Sciences (UMCAS) chief coordinator and the varsity’s Nicotine Addiction Research & Collaboration Group (NARCC) coordinator, Assoc Prof Dr Amer Siddiq Amer Nordin.

The smoking cessation specialist says there’s a chance that students using ECV will be exposed to other drugs.

“And it’s likely they’ll face the same problems – like poor grades – as students who smoke.”

Dr Amer Siddiq was commenting on findings published in the July edition of the Journal of Criminal Justice.

‘It’s all the rage! Exploring the nuances in the link between vaping and adolescent delinquency’ suggests that there may be something “criminogenic about vaping among adolescents”. But the strength of the relationship between vaping and delinquency depends on what is being vaped, with marijuana vaping being most heavily correlated with delinquency.

Dr Nur Amani@Natasha Ahmad Tajuddin, the lead of the NARCC smoking prevention programme in schools, says when the use of ECV is related to crimes like theft, violence, fighting, bullying, and running away from home, more effort is needed to curb the habit.

“Parents must realise that ECV has negative health, mental, economic and academic impact on youths.”

Young at risk

Four years ago, ECV use among students was less than 3% because the devices were too pricey for most teenagers, Assoc Prof Dr Anne Yee notes.

According to the Tobacco and E-cigarette Survey among Malaysian Adolescents 2016 (Tecma), a whopping 36.9% of students start on the devices between the ages of 14 and 15, and now, we’re seeing a spike in teenage use.

Easily passed-off as a smart watch, thumb drive or pen, the eye-catching devices look like the latest fashion accessories, says the addiction psychiatry expert and UMCAS member.

“Sellers are going all out to push the product to teens by making it cheaper and more accessible.

“Many even give it free to attract young customers. Drug pushers use the same tactic to get people hooked so that they keep coming back.”

These days, huge, eye-catching banners adorn night markets with traders openly displaying their wares. Clearly, the colourful e-liquid bottles with fancy names were designed for kids, teenagers and women, she says. These are groups that may never smoke yet we’re turning them into ECV users.

“If sellers are targeting adult smokers who want to quit, they wouldn’t need gimmicks. Why make such fancy designs?”

Dr Nur Amani says a recent study reported that 22% of children aged between 11 and 15 in England, use ECV compared to 18% who start smoking.

“This is because ECV ads are appealing. Here we have celebrities promoting ECV on social media to entice kids.”

Dr Amer Siddiq says more needs to be done to prevent a new generation of nicotine addicts from emerging.

“ECV isn’t safe. The devices could burn and the e-liquids could be adulterated.”

While studies have shown that children and adolescents see ECV as cool, pleasurable and fun to use, Dr Nur Amani says there’s a pattern of kids from lower socio-economic income groups being targeted by unscrupulous sellers.

Getting the girls

National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) secretary-general Harry Tan says teachers nationwide are noticing a rise in ECV use among girls.

“This is scary because with cigarettes, it was mostly just the boys. But these devices are popular among both boys and girls.”

Dr Yee is worried because nicotine is being touted as a way to lose weight. It’s like what drug pushers tell women about meth.

As it is, more young girls are experimenting with e-cigs as compared to cigarettes.

Cute cartoon packaging and fruity flavours are aimed at female non-smokers.

Society still has a negative perception of women who smoke. But with ECV, the message is that even ‘‘good girls’’ use it because it’s fashionable and can help you lose weight, adds Dr Yee.

In December last year, The Star highlighted how ECV and e-liquids were promoted as weight management aids.

“Even e-liquids that claim to be nicotine-free contain the drug. And you’ll never know for sure how much nicotine is inside. It could be equal to 20 cigarettes.

“A nicotine high lasts for less than two hours before the craving starts. So getting youngsters hooked on ECV is a business tactic, ” explains Dr Yee.

If your kids are turning to cigarettes, ECV or drugs, it could be because they’re bored or have no one to turn to, she says, adding that children who feel a sense of belonging in the family don’t need these harmful distractions.

Easily addicted

Dr Yee says teenagers are much more susceptible to addiction compared to adults. Some even start to have nicotine cravings after just one try.

“The teenage brain has yet to mature. That’s why adolescents are more impulsive, emotional and susceptible to advertisements aimed at influencing their behaviour.”

Parents whose children are already smoking aren’t helping by getting them an ECV. While it’s better than a tobacco cigarette, ECV is harmful for non-smokers.

When inhaled, tiny chemical particles in the e-liquids can enter the bloodstream and cause long-term harm.

Those between the ages of 10 and 18, adds Dr Nur Amani, are especially vulnerable to addiction.

The medical doctor says e-liquids contain toxic materials like lead, arsenic, manganese and chromium. Exposure to even small amounts can worsen symptoms of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

ECV use among varsity students is also worrying, says Dr Amer Siddiq, who was among the researches behind The use of e-cigarettes among university students in Malaysia journal paper published in December.

The study, funded by the Education Ministry, involved 1, 302 students in six Malaysian varsities.

“Over 40% of students smoke and use ECV. This means that ECV has not helped them quit smoking, ” he says, adding that some users even experienced adverse effects like dizziness, coughs and headaches.

Anti-vape campaign

The Education Ministry recently announced that it would intensify awareness campaigns after claims of ECV being freely distributed among students, and photos of youths vaping, went viral.

Calling on parents and society to stop students from bringing the devices to schools, the ministry’s director-general Datuk Dr Amin Senin notes that ECV has become the norm these days – becoming more sophisticated and difficult to distinguish from other electronic gadgets.

Welcoming the ministry’s move, Dr Nur Amani feels it’s important to get tobacco cessation experts onboard to work with teachers.

More awareness campaigns need to be conducted by health scientists, educationists, politicians and non-governmental organisations, to show that ECV use is not “normal behaviour”.

Group activities, instead of talks, work better to impart knowledge. And, it’s more sustainable.

“The children themselves can then act as ‘peer experts’. The impact is greater when the message is shared by those of the same age group.”

Campaigns can be effective if we target parents and teachers, says Dr Yee.

With children and adolescents, the more you say no, the more they will want to try it, she says, adding that parents shouldn’t over-react if they find their child smoking, using ECV or taking drugs.

“It’s not the end of the world. Be an ally to your children instead of acting like the police.”

She suggests talking to children about the dangers out there instead of sweeping things under the carpet.

“Make them realise that sellers only want to make money by getting youths hooked on an addictive habit whether it’s nicotine or drugs.”

The Health and Education Ministries are already working together on the Kotak (Kesihatan Oral Tanpa Asap Rokok) programme to highlight the harms of cigarettes and its related products, says Dr Amer Siddiq.

But with the introduction of newer ECV models, there’s a need to raise awareness among the adults.

Citing some pod-and-USB-like devices as examples, he says these have very high nicotine content but most parents and teachers don’t know about them.

Recently, children were mimicking vaping because of what they see on social media, Dr Amer Siddiq says in reference to the crackdown on Ghost Smoke – a candy consumed by sucking on a straw to produce a vapour-like effect.

“The Kotak programme must be enhanced to cover ECV and its dangers especially the impact on young developing brains.”

NUTP’s Tan says most teachers are in a cocoon when it comes to ECV.

“We need to expose teachers to this new threat so that they know what to look out for.

“And teachers must be given more authority. Since we cannot cane and are vulnerable to lawsuits, we want legislation that compels parents of problematic students to come to school and be responsible for their kids’ behaviour.”

UM, says Dr Nur Amani, has been conducting educational and advocacy programmes in schools through its No-Cotine Club and Community and Sustainability Centre (UMCARES).

Trained students go to colleges and schools to carry out activities that de-normalise smoking and vaping, she says.

“Soon we’ll be approaching 80 partner schools to tell our children that EVC is not just ‘evaporated water’.

“The effects are harmful and it’s haram for Muslims. Hopefully when they go home, they’ll share the message with their parents.”

Smoking and IR 4.0

ECV will be among the hot topics at the upcoming KL Nicotine Addiction International Conference (KLNAC) 2020, says its organising chairman Dr Amer Siddiq.

As the country moves towards realising the National Strategic Plan to make Malaysia smoke-free by 2045, it’s crucial to look at all forms of technology that can prevent the uptake of cigarettes, he says.

“We’ve decided on the theme ‘Mission IR 4.0: Redesign Tobacco Control’ because of the emergence of various disruptive technologies that can either assist quitting, prevent youths from starting the habit, or attract people to smoking.

“ECV was initially touted as a way to help smokers quit but we’ve seen how Juul has ended up enticing youths to take it up instead.”

UM, he says, is already using data and technology in its tobacco control efforts.

The varsity’s dental group is working on an app for school children to prevent initiation to smoking.

And, Dr Yee is collecting data to match smokers with cessation apps that are right for them.

“We’ve thousands of smoking cessation apps yet the success rate is only 25%. Each app caters to specific personalities so we’re trying to match smokers with apps that cater to their preferences. This will ensure a higher success rate.”


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Sabah Education Dept: Use of ‘ghost smoke’ candy not observed beyond Papar district.

Monday, July 22nd, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Education Department says they have not received reports of the ‘ghost smoke’ candy being consumed beyond the Papar district.

Its director Mistirine Radin said reports of the candy being consumed had so far only come from Papar.

“We have yet to hear of similar incidents in other districts,” she said.

She said they were investigating the matter and had not received any statement from the Education Ministry over the issue.

“The Parents and Teachers Association (PTA) of a school in Papar lodged a report after they saw pupils allegedly taking the ‘ghost smoke’ candy,” said Mistirine.

She said the PTA reported the issue to the Papar Health Office and they subsequently informed the Papar Education Department office to issue letters to schools in the district warning them about the matter.

The consumption of the ‘ghost smoke’ candy is alarming to parents as they are unsure what ingredients are used to create the smoking effect and whether consuming the candies is harmful

By Stephanie Lee

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Lam Thye calls for task force to address school bullying

Sunday, July 21st, 2019
Social activist Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye says a special task force should be set up to look into the problem of bullying in schools. — NSTP/RAMDZAN MASIAM

GEORGE TOWN: Social activist Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye says a special task force should be set up to look into the problem of bullying in schools.

He said the rise in bullying cases of late warranted action on the part of the Education Ministry.

He said video footage that had gone viral recently showed that such “acts of violence” were not confined to boys, but involved girls as well.

“This is a serious matter which warrants the ministry to do a thorough study into the causes of these acts of bullying that are on the increase in schools today.

“Is it due to lack of discipline among students or external factors, such as what they see on the outside, including television, that are influencing them?

“Or could it be due to stress among students?

“As I said, all this needs very thorough studying.

“I am sure that the ministry is able to get the experts.

“The Parent Teacher Associations must also be involved because their children may be the victims or the perpetrators,” he said at a motivation camp for UPSR students organised by the Eco World Foundation, here, today.

Lee, who is the chairman of the foundation, said schools were not only for educating students to be good academically. He said character development was equally important.

“The inculcation of noble values are also in schools where students are taught noble values… but to what extent are students putting it into practice? I think these things are very important.”

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) recently issued a stern warning to the public not to spread video footage of a student being bullied as it had the potential to fuel racial sentiment.

Lee said Eco World Foundation was committed to helping students under its Student Aid Programme (SAP) despite funding challenges in the current uncertain economic situation.

By Audrey Dermawan.

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