Sreelakshmi V. (left) and other members of team Hope at an event in Sharjah. Image Credit: Sreelakshmi V.

Tobacco usage is known to kill around 6 million people around the world every year, as stated by the World Health Organisation on their official website. Smokers need to realise this startling fact and care for themselves, their family and society. To raise awareness about this issue, I launched a campaign against the usage of tobacco and tobacco products at a leading hypermarket in Sharjah.

With some of my friends, I formed a students’ team and named it ‘Hope’, which stands for ‘Have Only Positive Expectations’. Our aim is to address sociocultural issues in society with the ‘Quit to Care’ campaign.

The inspiration came when I attended a seminar on cancer patients in Sharjah, which changed my perception. An oncologist gave a presentation and explained the various causes of cancer. I realised one big truth, which I wanted to share with other people, that cancer is controllable.

The doctor simplified it by explaining how a patient who has high or low blood pressure or is a diabetic has to take medication and undergo treatment. People don’t seem to have an issue discussing such illnesses, but if a person is diagnosed with cancer, then suddenly the family members and society starts to sympathise with him or her. This could affect his or her will power.

We should not look at them with sympathy and instead treat them as an equal member of society. There are lots of cancer survivors in the world. So, I decided to join this fight against the usage of tobacco, with a special focus on smoking.

At our first event, our team distributed flyers at the hypermarket, held an awareness speech and took a pledge from the customers and staff members to quit smoking. More than a 100 people signed on as a token of their support for our campaign. Many people, young and old, confessed to the Hope team that they are smokers and promised that they will quit.

Since then, we’ve gone on to hosting more awareness campaigns amongst students. According to the US-based Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 per cent of high school students have used some type of tobacco product. And the average age for first tobacco use is 13 years. So, we believed that the awareness campaigns should start form the student community.

The response we received was amazing and all of them together took a pledge against the use of tobacco products and to educate their near and dear ones.

Our team has now been invited to conduct our campaign by many organisations in Sharjah and Ajman. The coming months will be very busy for us.

Smokers are not damaging their health but the society they live in. Cancer Research UK states that passive smoking can increase a non-smoker’s risk of getting lung cancer by 25 per cent. It is really sad to note that people who smoke on the busy streets are not concerned about people around them, including children and pregnant women.

It is high time to fight against this age old disease, that is smoking, or we will be forced to fight its effects, which is lung cancer. Next time you see a person light up a cigarette, do not hesitate, go up to him or her and request to not smoke while trying to make him or her aware of its adverse effects. Initially, it will not be easy, but slowly, we will win.

— The reader is a student based in Sharjah.

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