Norwegian-Indonesian cooperation in smoking prevention project

Over 40 percent of boys aged 12-15 in Sabang, Indonesia, smoke. (Photo: Colourbox)

Master's project of INN University student paves the way for smoking prevention measures in Indonesian city. 

Samarullah Hamid from Indonesia has taken his master’s degree at INN University’s Department of Public Health, researching the smoking prevalence and habits of male youth aged 13-15 years in Sabang, Indonesia.

He had decided to return to study in Norway for the second time, after having graduated here with a nursing degree.

Now, after having completed his master’s research, Hamid has set in motion various steps aimed at tackling the youth smoking problem that is prevalent in Indonesia.

A local manifestation of a national challenge

Hamid’s research has revealed a disconcerting picture; over 40 percent of the boys in the relevant study group in Sabang smoke. He has further researched different factors influencing smoking habits, revealing that a smoking parent or sibling was a key factor. However, a smoking circle of friends seemed to be the most critical one; it is clearly a social problem.

In Indonesia, smoking is a prevalent problem mainly among men, due to cultural and religious taboos associated with smoking among women.

Hamid holds that Sabang – a relatively small city on a small island – is a good place to start tackling the youth smoking problem, and measures that succeed there would hopefully spread to other parts of the country.

Furthermore, counties in Indonesia have a large degree of autonomy in regard to passing local legislation, and thus the entire process of anti-smoking measures could be implemented and followed up in a smaller scale before a national attempt is made.

The results of the research were presented by Hamid in Sabang – along with his research supervisor Knut Ragnvald Skulberg – which raised public interest and was covered by a national newspaper.

Fruitful cooperation

Hamid and Skulberg are hoping that the local authorities in Sabang, followed by national authorities, will utilize the research’s results towards implementing measures for reducing youth smoking.

To this end, they hope to use the Norwegian example in legislation, enforcement and education in this area.

Norway’s efforts in the area of youth smoking prevention – and smoking prevention in general – have been fruitful, and nowadays less than 10 percent of the youth in the research’s corresponding age group smoke regularly.

- Norway has already addressed smoking prevention as a national priority, and thus learning from Norwegian experience on this front can be very useful in trying to launch Indonesian initiatives, says Hamid.

Skulberg notes that INN University has a standing cooperation with Sabang, with a student exchange agreement within several health professions, such as nursing and public health.

- We can now use statistical data from both Norway and Sabang in order to draw conclusions regarding how the information from the former can be useful for the latter. INN University can hopefully contribute both through discussion of experiences and with future research, towards the Indonesian preventive measures against smoking, says Skulberg.

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