Written By: Eman al-Jarady
Article Date: Apr 19, 2008 - 1:55:38 AM
Stop smoking for the sake of your children who are the most precious people in your life.
Fras Shamsan, a young man effected by the bad situations in Yemen, has been inspired to do something helpful. Shamsan who has never smoked a single cigarette, recently launched a campaign against smoking called “Life is better without smoking.” Shamsan felt that combating smoking is no longer an option. “I see many young people smoking and ruining their lives,” he said.
Lack of awareness is the main reason for people to practice these behaviors. Many young men quit smoking after Shamsan held workshops regarding the dangers of smoking. He worked hard to make sure that the campaign did not contain judgmental statements. “The old usages of “forbidden” and “stop” proved uselessness.
It is Shamsan’s belief that it is not necessary to attack people directly. Instead, he chooses to display phrases such as “Life is much better and beautiful without smoking.” “People will listen to you, and this is the first step,” said Shamsan.
In the workshops, quitting strategies have been strengthened. One strategy is to stop gradually. “You cannot jump and tell them you have to stop all at once. Only a person who has great determination can stop smoking at once, and that is a very hard goal for many to achieve. Thus, we advise people to ease off of smoking rather than stopping at once,” explained Shamsan. The young man said that there are in fact laws banning smoking in public places such as transportation, but people do not want to be forced to stop smoking. The purpose of this campaign is not to ban smoking, but rather to say “Life is better without smoking.”
When people read campaign posters, it alarms them. Shamsan said that he makes the pictures and words on the posters attractive in order to draw in passerby’s. “Posters of cigarette boxes are very attractive, making people want to try smoking. So, I try to do the same thing in my campaign to make my pictures eye-catching, just as the ones which call for smoking.”
Psychologists agree with Shamsan and say that if these posters are attractive, people will pay attention and may stop their bad habit. “Posters portraying smoking are always attractive which makes people eager to try it. In my opinion, if posters of anti-smoking are attractive just as those of encouraging smoking, people may stop smoking,” said Najat al-Sayem, a Professor at Sana’a University. She said that color and words have a wonderful impact on people, so that if posters of anti-smoking have these elements, it would encourage people to stop smoking for the sake of their health and children.
This campaign is to increase people’s awareness. Therefore, Shamsan founded with other members the Youth Media Forum a channel through which he could deliver his message to people around him through media outlets since mass media is the best way to make his message more effective and stronger.
Shamsan said that he thinks this campaign will do something and convince some to stop smoking. “Some of my friends who used to smoke have stopped smoking because of this campaign. The photographer of al-Jazeera has also stopped smoking. I do not know if this was because of me or due to something eles, but I am happy that he has stopped for the sake of his health.”
“One girl took our slogan and posted it on her father’s car. After seeing it day after day, he stopped smoking and realized that he was able to live a better life without smoking,” added Shamsan.
Like many Yemenis, Shamsan was inspired by Amr Khaled. “I like Khaled’s way of trying to change people’s lives. I want to do the same thing but in another way.
There are other Yemenis who inspire me and encourage me to carry on my work; they do not financially support me, but they show me the way and advise me.” There are however, roadblocks on the way to publishing this campaign. “We severely lack funding. Financial support is one of the serious obstacles that faces us. Officials just tell us promises but do nothing for us in the end. When I went to them asking for support, they just ignored me.” “Officials continue to spout “Our young people are the future of the country,” but when we try to do something, they turn their faces the other way.”
According to an anti-smoking website Stop Smoking, posters enable people to quit smoking in the long run. “They convey ideas and pictures which at times can be very forceful and discourage people from smoking. These posters also motivate existing smokers to kick the habit.”
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