The recently concluded health and fitness exhibition featured an interesting workshop that aimed at creating awareness among the kids to ensure their well being.

What was a CAT doing at an exhibition on health and fitness? Well, CAT is actually, Children Against Tobacco. This new campaign launched by the Mary Anne Charity Trust aims to arm children to take on tobacco addiction, with the right kind of information and awareness. This awareness campaign was held at the Valluvar Kottam during the Youth Health Mela. Schools registered for the CAT workshop.

“When you look at big companies that are into tobacco manufacturing, they have diversified into other products because of the ban on advertising tobacco products. Their strategy is to make sure that their potential consumers, that is children, who start off by using a pencil or notebook marketed under their brand name eventually move on to their tobacco products as well,” says Cyril Alexander. “We need to get to these potential consumers before the companies do,” he says, speaking of the objective behind this initiative.

Having put up a stall at the five-day health exhibition, CAT saw a lot of schools register for the one-hour workshops conducted throughout the day. Before they could sit for the sessions, the children had their picture taken so that it could be printed along with their certificates.

The workshop included the screening of a short film that had a child narrate how his life was affected because his father smoked, and was followed by a question and answer session to check how much the children had really understood. To convince them further of the ill-effects of smoking, a cancer survivor addressed the children. The person had to speak with the help of a device that is placed near his neck to bring out his electronically-modified voice. He asked the children to talk to adults who smoked or chewed tobacco and urge them to give it up lest they end up like him.

The workshop concluded with the children taking an oath to rid the country of tobacco. And for those who thought they were safe as long as they didn't smoke, Cyril Alexander's proclamation that they were all smokers came as a surprise. “Irrespective of whether you smoke a cigarette or not, you are all affected by it as passive smokers,” he said.

The children left with their certificates and a lot to ponder over.

MARY, VIII, Chennai High School, Rangarajapuram: The workshop was very informative. I learnt about how it affects our health. My father is a smoker and I will now tell him to quit the habit saying else he will have to suffer the repercussions like cancer and other ailments.

SANTHOSH, VII, Chennai High School, Rangarajapuram: I liked the part where the cancer survivor spoke as it was proof of how tobacco can affect you. My uncle is a smoker. Whenever I ask him to give it up he usually asks me to mind my own business. But now I will try convincing him again backed by what I have learnt today.

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