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Manas at World No Tobacco Day 2014

Tobacco consumption is the greatest cause for preventable death globally.  Some might find relief in the thought that they smoke occasionally or not at all. However, such persons are not entirely free from the pervasive presence of tobacco smoke clouding the urban landscape; we are all also choked by second hand smoke.

The need to address this issue is of paramount importance, but no endeavor can achieve its zenith until it is supported by representatives of the civil society organizations who lend on-ground realities to national-level visions. Manas foundation, as a Delhi based mental health organization is one such trust which came forth on this occasion as an agent aiming to create awareness about the hazards of tobacco usage, as well as reducing the anxiety among tobacco users by focusing on the resolution to quit tobacco. The theme for World No Tobacco Day 2014 was "Raise Taxes on Tobacco".

Part of a magnificent effort being made in the same direction on May 30th 2014, at Nirman Bhavan, an enthusiastic team of Manas Foundation assembled early in the morning to contribute its bit to this endeavor. We set up a stall which looked very much like a cigarette stall from a distance, with dummy cigarette boxes stacked up on the shelves of the stall as well as wreaths of cards which were imitation pan masala sachets hung along the sides of the stall. The dummy cigarette boxes were devised as reminder cues to strike a chord in the mind regarding the hazardous effects of tobacco use. They contained flash cards to help instill a powerful schema in the minds of smokers and non-smokers and replace the mindless consumption of tobacco with an informed reconceptualization of this hazardous habit. With the use of globally standardized graphic warning signs printed on the flashcards and dummy gutka packets, the harmful effects of tobacco use were visually and unabashedly depicted. These were intended to prompt people to think twice before succumbing to the habit of tobacco consumption  and reconsider its continuing usage. 

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Certificates were also arranged to be given to those who were willing to pledge to discontinue consuming tobacco on the occasion of World No Tobacco Day 2014, based on the rationale of a collective encouragement towards the daunting task of quitting tobacco use.

Further, since Manas believes in pursuing any endeavor in a holistic manner, our goal was not simply to encourage the quitting of tobacco, but also to address the conflict and anxiety asociated with its usage in people aware of its harmful effects. We aimed to create a space where people could seek help to change without being overwhelmed by self-doubt or fear. To this end, we also made available some self scoring questionnaires which could help one assess the degree to which they are in the tobacco habit, with a non-disclosure policy to promote self-aware and informed action, without the risk of stigmatization.

A strong platform was provided to this event by the primary agencies working globally for the betterment of people. The World Health Organization (WHO), the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), as well as the Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI) organized the event in the capital city and invited Manas Foundation to contribute its mental health expertise to this endeavor.

Manas foundation also incepted the Youth Advocate for World No Tobacco Day, Vanessa Singh, the daughter of Manas foundation’s founder and managing trustee Monica Kumar. The youth advocate speech was a powerful initiation to the rally from Nirman Bhawan to India Gate, and was very well received by the guest of honor for the occasion, the Union Health Minister, Dr. Harsh Vardhan. His previous success in the venture of Polio eradication made him a desirable choice to honour this event. Dr. Harsh Vardhan rightly equated tobacco consumption with death and spoke fervently over the ill-effects of tobacco consumption and lent credibility to his message by sharing his experience of having worked in the medical field for the last 30 years. We were fortunate to have Dr. Harsh Vardhan grace our stall with his presence and receive his positive feedback on our uniquely conceptualized endeavour.

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Besides Manas, the event was energized by the presence of the youth, in form of girls pursuing martial arts from Physical Education Foundation of India, who were led by Sunita Godra. Children from G.D Goenka School were additionally present in large numbers and were seen rehearsing zealously for the rally to be led from Nirman Bhavan to India Gate for the promotion of this cause. The youth’s participation in this endeavor was furthered by the presence of the equally zestful core group of 150 members from the National Cadet Corps (NCC), various other school and youth representatives from Jamia Millia Islamia, all of whom made the contribution of the youth positive and irrefutable. 

Thus, on the occasion of World No Tobacco Day 2014, Manas along with the aforementioned groups represented the urgent need to take firm steps in the direction of creating a tobacco free nation.  

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