Author Topic: Sri Lanka now owns comprehensive data base on adolescent smoking habits  (Read 2644 times)

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Offline sithari

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P. Wijesiri Gunasekara, National Coordinator, GYTS/WHO

SMOKING HABITS: Tobacco use is one of the major preventable causes of premature death and diseases in the world.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) attributes over 5 million deaths a year to tobacco use, a figure which is expected to rise to 10 million deaths a year by 2030. Seventy per cent of these deaths will occur in developing countries.

Globally, one person dies every 6.5 seconds of a tobacco related disease and tobacco consumption is on the increase. Given the current pattern of tobacco use globally, it is estimated that 250 million children and adolescents who are alive today will die prematurely because of tobacco, most of them in developing countries.

In our neighbouring country, India, tobacco is estimated to cause 800,000 deaths annually.

A large body of researches in the developing world shows that most of the adults who use tobacco at present have initiated their smoking habits at their teens.

A large volume of researches are available in USA which shows that nearly nine out of ten current adult smokers (89 per cent) started their smoking habits before they reach 19 years of age.

Even limited research findings available in developing world on the subject show, that the initiation of tobacco related products is occurred before the smokers reach 18 years of age.

If this pattern continues in the developing countries, tobacco use will result in the death of 250 million people who are children and adolescents living today.

As far as the developing countries are concerned, until recent times, a lack of research findings created a greater barrier in estimating the magnitude of the problem of adolescent tobacco use.

Even the limited research information available in the field did not provide a sufficient ground to make comparisons with the information available in the developed world, due to the fact that the researchers have followed different methodologies in conducting their researches.

In order to combat the rapid spread of the tobacco epidemic among adolescent age children and to help countries all over the world to plan and implement policies and programmes to control youth tobacco use, the Tobacco Free Initiative of WHO in collaboration with the Office on Smoking and Health (OSH), Centres for Disease Control (CDC) USA, developed the GYTS.

The GYTS uses a common methodology, core questionnaire, and consistent data processing for all countries. GYTS is a school based survey conducted among students studying in grades corresponding to ages 13-15 years.

In Sri Lanka, this included Grades 8-10 in Government and private schools. The GYTS has been conducted in 139 countries and has been repeated at least once in 31 countries across all six WHO regions.

GYTS includes data on prevalence of cigarettes and other tobacco use, perception and attitudes concerning tobacco use as well as information on access, availability and price, exposure to environment tobacco smoke (ETS), school curriculum, media and advertising and cessation.

Data from the GYTS can be used to help countries develop, implement and evaluate comprehensive tobacco control programmes.

Sri Lanka was privileged to have its opportunity to become one of the seven original countries which conducted the GYTS in 1999 along with Barbados, China, Costa Rica, Jordan, Russia, Venezuela. A repeat survey was done in 2003.

Sri Lankan GYTS were school based surveys of students attending grades 8-10 corresponding to the age group 13 to 15, using a standardised methodology.

Both surveys were conducted with an anonymous, self-administered close ended questionnaire. The questionnaire had 55 core questions and was pilot tested before it was administered in 1999; the same questionnaire was used in 2003.

In 1999 as well as in 2003, a two stage cluster sample design was used to produce representative data for the entire country.

At the first stage, schools were selected with probability proportional to enrolment size. At the second stage, classes were randomly selected and all students in selected classes were eligible to participate.

In 1999, the school response rate was 85.7 per cent, the student response rate was 89.0 per cent and the overall response rate was 76.4 per cent (school - student). A total of 2,896 students participated in the 1999 survey.

In 2003, the school response rate was 100 per cent, the student response rate was 79.1 per cent and the overall response rate was 79.1 per cent. For the 2003 survey, 1,845 students participated.

The GYTS was administered during one class period, i.e. second period of the day, and the procedures were designed to protect student privacy by assuring that their participation was anonymous and voluntary.

Before the surveys were administered concurrence of the education authorities, directorate, school heads and the parents of participating students was obtained.

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