SWAT- Students Working Against Tobacco
Students’ Working against Tobacco (SWAT) is an initiative by students of EMDI Institute of Media and Communication with an objective to educate fellow students to not pick up their first cigarette.
If you’ve not picked up the first one, don’t pick it up at all. SWAT is kept alive each year by the students of EMDI, and bears witness to successful awareness campaigns in the likes of Awareness March, Banner Campaigns, Smoke Free Parties, Concerts, Press Conferences, Celebrity Endorsements etc. MyBangalore caught up with five pro-active students who at pursuing their PGDM in Event Management and Public Relations at EMDI.. Vivian Rodrigues, Ajin Thomas, Priyanka Pradeep, Ajay Thomas and Brinda Popuri are among the seventy active participants for the cause of SWAT. “The thing about SWAT is that every student at EMDI is a member of it. We are seventy students in total, and every student does some activity on behalf of SWAT” said Pradeep. “It started out in Mumbai, and it branched out to all the organisations. In Bangalore we started out in 2004 and since then each and every student who has studied in EMDI has been actively participating in SWAT” she added.
Research proves that tobacco smoking in India kills 900,000 people a year, a figure that is expected to rise to one million by 2010. According to a 1996 survey reported by AP (Associated Press), 112 million people smoke tobacco in India, while some 96 million use tobacco products like chewing tobacco. ‘One in five of all male deaths and one in 20 of all female deaths in India in the age group 30-69 years will be caused by smoking in the 2010s, says a new study underlining that the country is in the midst of a catastrophic epidemic.
“We are not an anti-smoking campaign, and our target market is that of youngsters in the age group of 13- 25. Research proves that if you do not pick up you’re first cigarette in that age group, then the chances are you wouldn’t turn into a smoker at all or you wouldn’t feel the need to experiment. Our basic motto is to encourage people ‘not to pick up their first cigarette’” added Ajin. The campaign is not directed at smokers; instead it is aimed at impressionable people of the age group of 13 – 21 years from picking up the habit in the first place. “Our key message is that you don’t need to smoke to gain social acceptance, or look cool and that smoking is not a fashion statement. Most school teachers and principals are really interested in what we have to say, and they generally give permission with out much though” he added. The Institute and also encourage SWAT teams in schools and colleges. To encourage younger children to not pick up their first cigarette, members of the organisation go to various schools and colleges across the city, and speak to students about the activities of SWAT.
“Another thing is that we are all PR students, and conducting activities like this really help us. We learn immensely from holding events right from the production, to the creative aspects, co-ordination etc.” added Thomas. As part of the SWAT activities, the students organised a concert recently at Forum Value Mall in Whitefield, Bangalore. “All funds raised after the concert was donated to ‘Thayi Mane’, an orphanage here in Bangalore. From what we have noticed, when we lecture to students about the hazards of smoking, they generally do not tend to reason. They find it boring to attend a lecture per say. We encourage more of positive reasoning” said Ajay.
SWAT also encourages smokers to become a part of the group. “We have a lot of smokers who regret picking up the habit of smoking. The smokers who participate with us discourage people younger students from the habit. Our target is mostly the younger percentage of the population. So, if smokers join the campaign it would be a better testimonial, because they know how difficult it is to drop the habit” said Brinda.