Ampati: In a month-long campaign against tobacco consumption, 255 schools from the South West Garo Hills district of Meghalaya held numerous rallies and activities in the run-up to observe the ‘World No Tobacco Day 2023’ which falls on Wednesday.
As part of the campaign, a total of 7,628 students collected 16,532 signatures of people who extended support towards the initiatives held under the theme ‘My Meghalaya, Tobacco-free Meghalaya’.
Following the success of the campaigns held last year as part of the World No Tobacco Day 2022, the state government decided to intervene and ensure active participation of children in the campaign against tobacco consumption.
This year, the campaigns aimed at spreading awareness with the use of audio-visuals that shows the contrast between the natural beauty of Meghalaya and the unpleasantness of tobacco consumption.
World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) is observed on May 31 every year across the globe, as a reminder to protect citizens, especially children, from hazardous tobacco use.
National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP), Meghalaya, and the Education Department in collaboration with Sambandh Health Foundation ran the WNTD campaign this year. During the campaign, every school was required to perform two activities – hold rallies against tobacco addiction and collect signatures from supporters of the cause.
In Meghalaya, over 4.9 lakh students from more than 8,000 schools participated in these activities. Research studies indicated that when children participates in anti-tobacco activities, they are more likely to avoid tobacco use.
Numerous competitions were organised for schools across South West Garo Hills district under four categories (primary, upper primary, secondary and higher secondary), the winners of which were awarded with certificates and prizes. To judge these competitions ‘Block Award Committees’ constituted by an official of the Education Department, parents, village headmen among others, were set up.
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The block level winners will compete at the district level and district level winners would compete at the state level. In South West Garo Hills, Morning Flower LP School emerged as winners in the primary category, Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya in the upper primary, Joyfar Secondary School in the secondary category and Kalaipara Secondary School in the higher secondary category.
R P Marak, deputy commissioner of South West Garo Hills stated that the campaign is a great initiative to build a healthy generation.
Jennyfer J Synrem from the Department of Education shared that the health and education departments have been implementing the Tobacco Free Educational Institutions (ToFEI) program since 2021 in collaboration with Sambandh Health Foundation, a Gurugram-based NGO. She informed that Meghalaya won the prestigious World Health Organization Award 2023 for the Southeast Asia Region for World No Tobacco Day activities.
Dr Lana L Nongbri, State Nodal Officer, NHM, said, “Tobacco not only kills its best customers, but also destroys our environment. This is a product that is consumed by 47% adults (aged 15+) in our State. It kills 8,000 people in Meghalaya every year. We are ensuring that we implement one of the most effective strategies, i.e., ToFEI to curb the addiction.”
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