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Another attempt to make smokers kick the butt

 | May 18, 2012

There have been many campaigns to make people stop smoking but sadly most have just gone up in smoke.


PETALING JAYA: There is another move to make Malaysian smokers kick the butt. This time it will be in the form of an ambitious rally on May 31 – World No Tobacco Day.

The anti-smoking organisation You1Quit has plans to make this the world’s biggest anti-smoking rally. But, till todate no venue has been earmarked

The founder Julian Leicester has themed the rally as “Don’t Just Quit It, CRUSH IT!”. He hopes to achieve this through the social media.

Leicester’s ambition is to make as many people as possible to kick the RM10 habit. So far, most anti-smoking campaigns have not been successful.

The government’s costly RM100 million Tak Nak campaign has literally gone up in smoke with former health minister Dr Chua Soi Lek himself admitting that there was no indication that the number of smokers had gone down since the five-year campaign was launched in February 2005.

The huge sum spent on billboards was a failure and the message through various media channels did not reach the target group, those below 18 years.

A UPM study done of 18,000 people some years ago revealed that the smoking age is getting younger: among 15-year-olds, 21% smoked; 16 (32.2%); 17 (35.6%); 18 (45.5%); 19 (51.4%); and 20 (49.2%).

The main reason given for starting to smoke at such a young age was peer pressure; a conveniently true reason, sadly enough.

Fomca adviser Prof Hamdan Adnan had said that fear no longer works when it comes to curbing smoking. He urged the government to work with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and look at new approaches to curb smoking and target schoolchildren, teachers, youths and smokers.

If a school teacher can step behind the staff room to have a cigarette in full view of students passing by, what then is the use of the Tak Nak signboards going up in the first place at schools?

As twisted as it sounds, perhaps a cue should be taken from Nazi Germany which instituted a strong anti-tobacco movement and led the first public anti-smoking campaign in modern history.

Novel tactic

Anti-tobacco movements grew in many nations from the beginning of the 20th century, but these had little success with the only exception being Germany, where the anti-tobacco campaign was supported by the government after the Nazis came to power. It was the most powerful anti-tobacco movement in the world in the 1930s and early 1940s.

Several Nazi leaders openly criticised smoking and anti-tobacco research thrived under the Nazi rule. At that time, the most important research on smoking and its effects on health was conducted in the Third Reich.

Hitler himself was a heavy smoker in his early life when he used to smoke about 25 to 40 cigarettes per day. But he gave up smoking after realising it was a waste of money. He viewed smoking as “decadent” and lamented over the fact that “so many excellent men have been lost to tobacco poisoning”.

He promised to terminate the use of tobacco in the military after the end of the war. Hitler personally encouraged people not to smoke and rewarded those who quit smoking.

However, Hitler’s personal distaste for tobacco was not the main cause behind Nazi anti-tobacco movement; it is only one of the several catalysts behind the anti-smoking campaign.

Perhaps You1Quit should also look at the energetic efforts of tobacco companies which are almost Machiavellian in their efforts to net in more smokers.

For example, in an attempt to halt the adoption of pictorial health warnings on packages of tobacco, the industry recently adopted the novel tactic of suing countries under bilateral investment treaties, claiming that the warnings impinge the companies’ attempts to use their legally-registered brands.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) selected “Tobacco industry interference” as the theme for this year’s World No Tobacco Day. In keeping to this theme, it would perhaps be prudent for You1Quit to keep its eye focused on going after the industry by way of smart and effective information capsules, rather than jumping into a rally that is in fear of burning out even before it begins.


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