KT For Good: Teens, in case you missed it: Smoking is never cool
For the third part of this #SmokeFreeUAE series, experts and educators speak up on teen smoking.
Raising awareness against teen smoking - especially in these times where vaping and smoking medwakh has become common in the UAE - should be a combined effort of a child's school and parents, experts have said.
The legal age to smoke in the UAE is 18, though, tobacco shops in the country have been questioned by authorities in the past for selling to underage children.
A psychologist at Dubai's LifeWorks Holistic Counselling Centre, Sneha John, said many teachers know that kids are smoking but "don't have any control" over the issue. "Vaping is so common these days and, based on my experience with students and parents, when teens are exposed to so many different kinds of people in a school and on social media, they get curious about these things," she said.
"There are anti-smoking campaigns that happen in schools, awareness weeks and classes. Teachers know about how kids are smoking, but they don't have control. Students should be taken to counselling for one-on-one sessions, so they can find the root cause behind why they are doing it."
She said there are multiple reasons why students fall into the dangerous path of smoking: Some get bullied into it, others give in to peer pressure, while others are curious, among other influences.
Smoking is, obviously, not allowed anywhere in schools and that's a general rule worldwide. There are schools in Dubai that carry out anti-smoking campaigns.
Mark Bishop, assistant headteacher, Care, Guidance and Welfare at Greenfield International School, said promoting anti-smoking is part of their wider health and wellbeing programme. "We raise awareness of the dangers through lessons during home room time, and this also forms part of students' studies in science and other lessons," he said.
What has been a clear trend in recent years is not students smoking "but the rise of vaping during weekends", Bishop said.
"This is more prevalent and also an area students are more ignorant about. Whereas teenage children do tend to be aware of the dangers of smoking, there is more ignorance about vaping, which is more 'trendy' than smoking. Therefore, we have also worked with students and parents to raise awareness of this danger and are currently working with the Dubai Police on an assembly to educate students," Bishop added.
The school has a zero-tolerance policy towards smoking and vaping in school and within the vicinity.
A parent in Dubai, Saleh Fakher Alkayyali, said he quit smoking for his children as he did not want to set a bad example.
"When I came to know that we are expecting a baby, I had to take one of the bravest decisions in my life, I've quit smoking immediately," the father of three children said.
"This was 12 years ago. My motive was very strong, I didn't want my son to live in a polluted house and be exposed to unclean air and environment."
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