(This is ‘Ardi Rizal’, a 2 year old Indonesian boy, who smokes 40 cigarettes a day. He became addict when his father gave him his first cigarette when he was just 18 months old!)
May 31st was “celebrated” as World No Tobacco Day. It is meant to encourage abstinence from all forms of tobacco consumption across the globe for 24 hours. News papers, news channels published no tobacco ads. Organizations too “celebrated” the day with slogans and posters. Supreme Court of India had imposed a countrywide ban on smoking in pubic places and public transport from 2nd October 2008.Prior to that Delhi government too had taken a step to curb smoking by imposing a the ban on children below 18 years of age from buying tobacco products and stopping the shops from selling cigarette and other tobacco products in the vicinity of educational institutions.
The irony is that all these actions have not been able to curb the menace of tobacco in
Though exemplary, these steps might prove ineffective unless they are included in a broader strategy, on the part of the government to inform and educate people about this spreading hazard. But, to make any thought-out plans, we must probe deeper into the cause of this threat .
I have tried to give some insights in this connection -
A “web” has been created by “tobacco producing companies”, especially by those which manufacture cigarettes, to catch more and more people in their net. Through their ads on the media and strong distribution channel, they have made tobacco products (cigarette specially) omnipresent. They sponsor all big events and hire celebrities from sports, films etc. to endorse their products. It short, they have tacitly made tobacco products in general and cigarette in particular a “status symbol”. Tobacco and cigarette today have become not only socially acceptable but desirable. They have successfully created a false perception among people that all successful people smoke and it adds to the personality. This “attack on the unconscious” of the people has made any person today prone to smoke or consume tobacco products. Obviously the young and adolescents are most vulnerable. Because of the addictive power of these products, a person once introduced to them, slowly attaches it to all his/her life events and life style and ends up by becoming its slave.
But the real threat is to the young generation. Apart from above specified reasons, they are lured to this seduction due to some different reasons. Modeling or Imitation is a major way through which a child acquires any behavior. When the adolescent sees so many persons around him, right from elders to peers, smoking or consuming tobacco products, he tries to imitate. The atmosphere of today’s “modern educational institutions” adds ‘fuel to the fire’. Every adolescent wants to be socially accepted by his/her peer group. Many times it happens that he is forced (psychologically) to smoke to remain in the group. He does it for a perceived reward and attaches it with his personality and self concept. The cigarette become a ‘uniting link’ between the group
I disagree with the opinion that enacting laws to restrict the influence of tobacco is a “feckless endeavor” and “an old-fashioned idea”. I don’t think this would be a “good idea” that on the one hand we make people aware and educate them about the dangers of tobacco and on the other make tobacco available to every nook and corner and leave it on people to make an “Intelligent Choice”!
All steps taken by government can become effective only when they are supported by the public awareness programs that stimulate all sections of society to take active part in this endeavor. A Strong public opinion should be made for ‘saying no to tobacco’. The media must also take the initiative. It can air programs on hazards of smocking. Educational institutional have more serious role to play in this direction as the seeds of “Smoking Behavior” are sown in college and school only. Only a collective effort can defy such a powerful enemy. It’s high time we have taken a determined effort to get rid of this evil