How teenagers justify smoking

Many young smokers in Malaysia start smoking when they are attending secondary school and rationalise that the benefits of smoking are greater than its risks, according to recent studies in the Pertanika Journal of Social Sciences & Humanities (JSSH).

Adolescent smokers make a calculated decision by assessing the advantages and disadvantages of their habit, according to research.

Substance abuse involves the misuse or overdose of harmful substances such as tobacco, alcohol and drugs. Although such acts are prohibited in Malaysian schools, research suggests that some adolescents start experimenting with these substances when they are still in school.

In one JSSH study, researchers asked 1,800 students between the ages of 12 and 17, who were from 18 secondary schools in five states of Malaysia, how they perceive substance abuse. The study focused on the perception of peers, rather than whether or not the respondents engaged in the activities themselves.

The team found that the most common forms of substance abuse were smoking, followed by drinking alcohol, using marijuana and glue-sniffing. The results showed that more than half of the respondents knew up to three friends who were smokers and the majority of these smokers started their habit between the ages of 15 and 17. Furthermore, the study revealed that more than 30 percent of the respondents did not view their friends’ smoking as an offence.

“This finding is particularly alarming because it implies that there is a lack of awareness among students regarding the dangers of such misdemeanours,” says Professor Yuen Fook Chan of Universiti Teknologi MARA, who led the study.

Adolescent smokers face various health risks and smoking has also been linked to illegal drug use, high-risk sexual activities, fights and suicide attempts. Past research suggests that young smokers are aware of these risks but continue to smoke.

Why do students still smoke when they know the risks? In another JSSH study, led by Hizlinda Tohid of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, researchers try to answer this question. The team interviewed 26 Malaysian smokers who were 16 years old (including three former smokers), and found that adolescent smokers make a calculated decision by assessing the advantages and disadvantages of their habit.

For example, they downplayed the health risks and focused on the perceived rewards such as having fun, popularity, stress relief and maintaining friendships or group-belonging. Dr Tohid points out that these perceived rewards were their focus of life, leading them to think that smoking was “worth the risk”.

The researchers hope that their findings will help clinicians and policy makers to develop better strategies to challenge the perceptions of young smokers in Malaysia.

For more information about this research, please contact:

Professor Chan Yuen Fook
Faculty of Education
Universiti Teknologi MARA
Campus Section 17, 40200 Shah Alam
Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia

Email: [email protected]; [email protected];
Tel: +(603) 5522 7177; Mobile: +(6017) 358 6325

Dr. Hizlinda Tohid
Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre,
Jalan Yaacob Latiff, Bandar Tun Razak
56000 Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Email: [email protected]
Tel: +(603) 9145 6117; Mobile: +(6019) 222 210

About Pertanika Journal of Social Sciences & Humanities (JSSH)
Pertanika Journal of Social Sciences & Humanities (JSSH) is published by Universiti Putra Malaysia in English and is open to authors around the world regardless of nationality. It is published four times a year in March, June, September and December. Other Pertanika series include Pertanika Journal of Tropical Agricultural Science (JTAS), and Pertanika Journal of Science & Technology (JST).

JSSH aims to develop as a pioneer journal for the social sciences with a focus on emerging issues pertaining to the social and behavioural sciences as well as the humanities. Areas relevant to the scope of the journal include Social Sciences—Accounting, anthropology, Archaeology and history, Architecture and habitat, Consumer and family economics, Economics, Education, Finance, Geography, Law, Management studies, Media and communication studies, Political sciences and public policy, Population studies, Psychology, Sociology, Technology management, Tourism; Humanities—Arts and culture, Dance, Historical and civilisation studies, Language and Linguistics, Literature, Music, Philosophy, Religious studies, Sports.

The journal publishes original academic articles dealing with research on issues of worldwide relevance. The journals cater for scientists, professors, researchers, post-docs, scholars and students who wish to promote and communicate advances in the fields of Social Sciences & Humanities research.


The papers are available from the following links:

For more information about the journal, contact:

The Chief Executive Editor (UPM Journals)
Head, Journal Division, UPM Press
Office of the Deputy Vice Chancellor (R&I)
IDEA Tower 2, UPM-MDTC Technology Centre
Universiti Putra Malaysia
43400 Serdang, Selangor

Phone: +(603) 8947 1622 | +(6016) 217 4050
Email: [email protected]

Date of Release: 29 June 2016.

The Chief Executive Editor, UPM Journals

Published: 29 Jun 2016

Contact details:

Office of the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research & Innovation) Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) 43400 UPM Serdang Selangor Malaysia

+603 8947 1622
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Websites: Pertanika Journal website Research paper "Students’ Perceptions of Substance Abuse Among Secondary School Students in Malaysia" Research paper "Smoking is Worth the Risk”: Understanding Adolescents’ Rationalisation of Their Smoking Behaviour"