IT’S your right to demand clean air.
Using a patented module developed by Universiti Malaya (UM) researchers, workshops are being conducted to empower varsity students on their rights as non-smokers.
The tobacco control awareness and advocacy module, piloted in November last year, has proven to be a success with participants increasing their tobacco control awareness by up to 60% after attending the workshop. The module was developed as part of the university’s HIPSTAR (Hidup Sihat Tanpa Rokok) campaign, says Nicotine Addiction Research & Collaboration Group (NARCC) deputy coordinator and UM consultant public health physician Assoc Prof Dr Farizah Mohd Hairi.
“The pilot workshop was conducted in UM with our first year students. We also went into private universities,” she said, adding that the module was effective because it’s interactive and voluntary.
“The participants have come up with some really creative ideas that don’t need much money to carry out. Our goal is to guide them in realising their projects.”
The module is divided into three main sections covering:
> the harmful effects of tobacco;
> the role and rights of citizens; and
> health promotion.
But, it’s not just first hand smoke that Dr Farizah is concerned about. Many participants were unaware of the dangers of second and third hand smoke.
“If your father smokes in the car, the carcinogens get absorbed into the interior. So, you’ll still be inhaling the cancer-causing chemicals even if the smoke is gone,” she says, adding that awareness on the dangers of tobacco, and the rights of non-smokers, were very low among the youths.
It’s crucial, she says, to educate students on their rights to demand a smoke-free environment, because Malaysia is a signatory to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
“Most non-smokers don’t realise that they have rights because most awareness campaigns are targeted at smokers. But to de-normalise smoking, we must tell non-smokers that under the framework, they have a right to demand clean air.”
Non-smokers, she says, can also help their smoker friends by directing them to ‘quit-smoking clinics’. Smokers, she adds, need help because nicotine is highly addictive.