A passion for a smoke-free Jordan

19-photoLarissa Al-uar
Women Against Indoor Smoking in Jordan
19-flag Jordan
31 May 2014

 

A dentist by profession and a smoke-free activist by passion, Dr. Larissa Al-uar is the co-founder of Women Against Indoor Smoking, now called Tobacco Free Jordan.

Tell us about your smoke-free advocacy work:

Seven working mothers decided to take up the fight against tobacco for the sake of our children. We were concerned about the risks of second-hand smoking and tobacco addiction in general in our society. By joining forces, we hope to raise awareness on the harmful effects of tobacco because we firmly believe in the need to provide our children with a better future.

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Our campaign has two main goals: educating children and teens about the harms of smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke, and the existence of a law that protects us on one hand, and demanding the implementation of the law on the other.

We founded “Women Against Indoor Smoking[MH5] ” as a Facebook group in 2011 to lobby for the implementation of Public Health Law 47/2008. Having no smoke-free places to go to at that time, we were surprised to learn that the law existed and decided to educate people about it so that non-smokers won’t be shy to ask for our right to breath smoke-free air.

Out of necessity, we became a registered NGO known as LaLiltadkhin, which literally means “No to Smoking” in November 2011.

What are some specific things your group does to educate children?

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We developed a children’s book “My Smoke Free Life” written and illustrated by Zeina and Dana Shahzada, both founding members. We read this book to children from preschool up to third grade. We use the book to open the discussions with the children about the harms of tobacco and sharing their own experiences and feelings about exposure to second-hand smoke whether at home, school, play area or even at the doctor’s office.

We also developed posters that are distributed in schools, some stating we are a “smoke-free school” while others explain the importance of being a smoke-free school in simple words for students to understand. Note books, which are a huge hit among the children, are also distributed.

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Our latest project is an animated movie. It is aimed at elementary school children and shows what “evil tobacco” does to various body parts when it is inhaled.

Watch the video here.

How does your group reach out to teens?

Sadly, a large number of students, especially males, are cigarette smokers, while hookah is very popular among both sexes. The greater evil is that it is generally socially acceptable to “drink” hookah as we say in Arabic. For many, hookah smoking is not considered as such, and even educated people will state that they don’t smoke but “drink” hookah.

In order to get teenagers involved, we encourage schools to form anti-tobacco clubs. We hold prolonged discussion panels with groups of students and ask them to take matters in their own hands and do campaigns at their own school and surrounding ones as part of their community service hours.

We are amazed by the ideas these young activists come up with. In the end who can better convince a teen of something than another teen? We support them with print materials and our t-shirts. In that same manner, we encourage university students to do something about smoking at their universities.

Is there anything you would like to add?

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We work in our non-existent free time without any official financing. We get donations, not necessarily in the form of money, but in the form of free services. With so little resources on our hands but with huge devotion and dedication, we are working to give our children a smoke-free future, and we will.