Tobacco smoking is defined as the practice of consuming tobacco by inhaling the smoke that consists of particle and gaseous phases. The practice of smoking tobacco has many health effects, which sometimes could be adverse to both active and passive smokers (Schudson & Baykurt, 2016). However, the prevalence of smoking in Hong Kong has been consistently declining for the last period of 40 years. This is after the enactment of the Ordinance.
Therefore, this essay will focus on discussing this phenomenon in light of the culture of smoking and other factors associated with the practice.
The reported decrease in tobacco smoking was associated with various measures that the government adopted in an effort to strengthen tobacco control policies. It used a multi-pronged approach which includes public education, enlargement of health warnings, raising the tobacco tax, strengthening of smoking cessation services, and enforcement and extension of no smoking areas, among other policies. However, I feel that the government and other agencies involved, such as the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health (COSH), should also factor in the social and cultural aspects affecting tobacco smoking. For instance, addressing the social factors which contribute directly to the uptake. It is important to note that tobacco smoking is a multi-determined behavior, especially among adolescents and young adults, and is influenced by the distinctive and overlapping combinations of psychological, biological, and environmental aspects (York, 2012).
The prevalence report could possibly fail to connect the uptake effectively with the negative factors that contribute to smoking initiation on a social basis. For instance, a study that examined social factors attributed to smoking initiation and cessation showed that commonly endorsed negative aspects related to smoking initiation include exposure to smoking- behaviors prompted through peer pressure, family members, media, and easy access to tobacco. On the other hand, the most prevalent negative aspects attributed to smoking cessation are stress or anxiety-relieving benefits, risk-exempting beliefs, weight control, and access to cigarettes (Banks et al., 2015). For instance, as many studies have revealed, a majority of current smokers identified smoking as a relief for anxiety and depressive symptoms.
Interestingly, the majority of the former smokers believed that smoking tobacco assisted them to think better and deal with stress. However, after they quit, they discovered that it was a misconception. Therefore, the health department should seek to address the particular negative factors in a manner that incorporates the social needs of the people. This could be achieved by providing alternative methods of weight control and stress relief in a healthcare-oriented setting. Sometimes, the report on the prevalence of tobacco smoking overlooks the importance of these contributing factors, especially the social and cultural attributes which have proven to bear clinical, research, and policy implications. It is possible to succeed in alleviating the prevalence of tobacco smoking (Torre, 2013).
Many people, especially former and current smokers, have displayed great knowledge about the harmful health effects associated with the practice (Islam, Torre, & Jemal, 2015). The prevalence of current tobacco smoking associated with e-cigarette use among young people is undeniably on the rise. The e-cigarette is a battery-operated device that emits vaporized nicotine doses or solutions of non-nicotine for the user to inhale (Fields, 2016). It aims to give a similar sensation to inhaling the smoke of tobacco without necessarily the smoke. While it may assist the existing smokers to quit, there is a huge concern that young people are using e-cigarettes for their sake rather than replacing tobacco use.
Therefore, the government should embark on policy advocacy aimed at controlling the use of e-cigarettes if the reducing tobacco smoking campaigns are to be sustained (Frazer et al., 2016). However, it is important to understand the positive and negative perceptions of tobacco smoking and try to establish a balance between the two orientations. For instance, independent of smoking status, many participants involved in producing such study reports have indicated health complications as drawbacks of smoking. The health problems include sore throat, lung cancer, and strokes (Gerald & Berry, 2016). Esthetics such as smoking causes discoloration of teeth and unpleasant body odor, and accelerating the process of aging could be spelled out as some of the main disadvantages of tobacco smoking.
Therefore, I feel that the government, together with the health agencies, should capitalize on these drawbacks in order to boost the efforts of achieving a smoke-free Hong Kong in the near future. This is because, as human being beings, we tend to value our health very much, independent of negative influence from other quarters. People will always be scared of getting ill and hence are likely to avoid any form of practice that would cause them health problems. I tend to believe that inadequate creation of awareness about the health risks associated with tobacco smoking targeting three groups; non-smokers, current and former smokers, is a key setback to the efforts of realizing a smoke-free Hong Kong in the recent past.
For example, the warnings label on cigarette packets could appear as ‘usual’ to the smokers and hence end up disregarding them. Companies involved in the manufacture of tobacco products are quickly revolutionizing to cope with the efforts of mitigating the use of tobacco. For instance, these firms have embarked on manufacturing shisha, which has been seen to sugarcoat the health effects associated with its use with the objective of staying in business. In such a culture of smoking coupled with economic factors, the efforts to ensure the controlled prevalence of tobacco smoking will always be curtailed (Ness, 2016). Therefore, there is a need for all the stakeholders to be fully involved in the efforts to achieve a smoke-free Hong Kong.
As former and current smokers would argue, the negative factors associated with smoking include pleasure, distraction, relaxation, coping with low esteem/sadness, and improved concentration. If alternative methods of attaining the above-mentioned statuses could be provided in a healthcare-orientated framework, it could significantly contribute to alleviating the prevalence of tobacco smoking in Hong Kong. I am convinced that a conceptual framework could be useful in understanding the social and cultural aspects which form the basis for the prevalence of tobacco smoking. The PEN-3 presents a conceptual dummy for the build-out of programs for health education (Kline & Huff, 2007). It comprises three interdependent and interrelated dimensions of health.
The first aspect is health education, which helps establish the aimed recipients. The other aspect is an educational identification of health conduct and seeks to determine the factors influencing personal or community actions. The last aspect is the cultural suitability of a given health etiquette (Iwelunmo, Idris, Adelakun, & Airhihenbuwa, 2010). In particular, this dimension has positive, exotic, and negative components. The ‘positive’ aspect refers to enablers, perceptions, and nurturers that make the audience targeted to engage in healthy behavior. The practices perceived to have non-harmful effects on health are captured in the ‘exotic’ component. The ‘negative’ aspect refers to enablers or perceptions that make the aimed recipients engage in hurtful behavior. Therefore, I feel that incorporating this conceptual framework in the fight against tobacco smoking could significantly alleviate the prevalence of the vice in Hong Kong.
The socio-cultural factors attributed to smoking prevalence form the focal point of addressing the tobacco smoking problem, not only in Hong Kong but also in other places across the world. For instance, exposure to smoking through siblings, parents, or family members, easy access to tobacco products, and peer pressure have led to smoking initiation. Therefore, it would be important for the government and healthcare agencies to incorporate sociocultural elements associated with tobacco smoking in the healthcare system. The perceived influence of media through smoking in movies/ soap operas and cigarette advertising is prevalent and thus should not be overlooked (Rogers, 2012). However, countermeasures to control the prevalence of smoking should be carefully adopted. This is because studies on current smokers have shown that some countermeasures make people want to try tobacco smoking. Interestingly, ads against smoking are to assist people, but the majority do not believe it.
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