S. Kumar (name changed), a class XI student of a Chennai School, has decided to ask his father to quit smoking inside the house. Equipped with information on the ill-effects of passive smoking after a short orientation session, this student is confident that he can have his way now.

“I would often ask my father to go out and smoke but he never listened. Now, I know what diseases tobacco use can cause and I will definitely persuade him,” he said.

Kumar is one of the many students who are now part of the Children Against Tobacco (CAT) initiative aimed at training students to create awareness regarding the ill-effects of tobacco.

On Wednesday, several students of schools run by the Chennai Corporation lined up outside the CAT stall at the Cancer Institute’s Youth Health Mela to participate in an hour-long session on tobacco control. CAT, an initiative launched by a non-government organisation — Mary Anne Charity Trust, will reach out to 2,000 Chennai School students during the mela.

“We began this training initiative two years ago and have so far, covered 6,500 students in schools run by both the Corporation and the government. If we reach out to students aged eight to 18 years with information on the ill-effects of tobacco, we can prevent 90 per cent of them from becoming tobacco consumers,” S. Cyril Alexander, executive director of the organisation said.

Through this, the students could become ambassadors against tobacco use and spread the information among their peers, family and community, he added. The session covers a talk on tobacco control and health effects, documentary screening and story-telling on various aspects including second-hand smoking and chewable tobacco.

Once the students register at the stall, a photo is taken at the spot and a certificate is issued at the end of the session. “It is important that such information reaches students,” said a teacher.

A food court at the five-day mela, which commenced on Wednesday, was an instant hit. Stalls selling millet-based recipes including sweets and savouries, rice and dosa were put up at the mela.

More In: Chennai | News