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(FILE) An estimated five million Malaysians, or 22.8 per cent of the population, are smokers, according to the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS). AFP Photo

PUTRAJAYA: An estimated five million Malaysians, or 22.8 per cent of the population, are smokers, according to the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS).

Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya said 50 per cent of smokers are above 30-years-old; 40 per cent are above the age of 19, while the remaining 10 per cent are below 19.

"Although the number of smokers has reduced by 0.3 per cent compared to 23.1 per cent in 2011, the reduction is still not significant enough as more awareness and efforts must be taken to stop smoking," he said.

He said that four out 10 or 7.6 million adults are exposed to secondhand smoke inside their houses, four of 10 or 2.3 million adults at workplaces, and seven out 10 or 8.6 million adults at public places like restaurants.

"The number is worrying as many non-smokers are also affected," he said.

Hilmi said, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 600,000 people die every year from exposure to secondhand or passive smoking.

"A total of 28 per cent of victims are children," he added.

On efforts to quit smoking, he said around 10,000 smokers have joined smoking cessation programmes conducted in 486 goverment clinics and hospitals every year.

"Although an average of only 22 per cent out of the 10,000 are able to quit smoking annually, but we are happy to help them kick the habit," he said.

Hilmi was speaking at the Blue Ribbon Campaign Awards and Recognition ceremony.

The campaign introduced by the Malaysian Health Promotion Board (MySihat) was aimed at recognising and honouring individuals and organisations who have contributed in the efforts to protect the public from the hazards of smoking.

New Straits Times journalist Aliza Shah also won an award for her article 'UM Specialist Rubbishes Claims that Vaping Helps Kick Smoking Habit'.

She was among the 89 award recipients from various industries.

TV3's Abdulahman Abu Hassan for his programme 'Vape, Soal Jawab TV3' and Yon Lynn Tan from NTV7 for 'Bella Confidential: No Tobacco Day, Tobacco Awareness' also won awards.

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