Special Correspondent

SWAT organised smoke-free parties at pubs frequented by youngsters

Bangalore: It was a smoke-free party for scores of young people on New Year Eve. The SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco) team was out in full force, determined to boot out smoking among students.

The students from the Event Management Development Institute (EMDI), Bangalore, explained: "Keeping in mind the characteristics of its target audience, SWAT focuses on social aspects of smoking. The key message is you don't need to smoke to gain social acceptance and that smoking is not 'cool'." This message is likely to have a stronger impact on teenagers than mundane facts about hazards of smoking or gory images of cancer-affected body parts. One tends to ignore them in spite of being fully informed."

Icons of the youth such as Jackie Shroff, Sunidhi Chauhan and Rahul Dravid have expressed their solidarity with SWAT. Launched in December 2004, it is planned to be an annual event. Kannada actor Ramesh Arvind helps in their campaigns.

Teams of SWAT activists have been visiting colleges across Bangalore, making students pledge they will not pick up their first cigarette. This was followed by a long 'No Smoking' banner displayed on M.G. Road boulevard, which was signed by 1.78 lakh supporters.

Chapters planned

This year SWAT organised smoke-free parties at pubs frequented by youngsters. The first party was at Flame on Brigade Road. Young people enjoyed themselves, minus cigarette smoke.

The SWAT team is also planning chapters in colleges and high schools.