Turkmenistan: youth advocate for tobacco-free country
Young ambassadors for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), volunteers and activists in Turkmenistan were energized to build a country free from tobacco at a recent meeting in Ashgabat. The youth dialogue was organized by the WHO Country Office in Turkmenistan, together with the Ministry of Health and Medical Industry of Turkmenistan (MoHMIT), to celebrate World No Tobacco Day and raise awareness of the hazardous effects and risks of tobacco consumption, tobacco control measures and protecting young people and children from second-hand smoking.
The young SDG ambassadors, together with the volunteers, conducted a survey on tobacco use among the participants at an event in Ashgabat Park. The youth dialogue served as a platform for them to express and exchange their views and brought them in contact with health-care specialists and doctors from various medical institutions in the country. Speakers at the high-level conference, representing the MoHMIT, WHO and other specialized medical institutions in Turkmenistan, marked the start of Tobacco Cessation Month by emphasizing that tobacco is one of the biggest threats to public health and reaffirmed their commitment to working together towards building a world free from tobacco. Tobacco Cessation Month is an initiative of the Government of Turkmenistan, launched annually on May 1 to cease the use of tobacco in the country.
Youth tobacco initiatives
Turkmenistan holds a leading position in tobacco control and prevention in the WHO European Region and youth tobacco initiatives are among the country’s most effective strategies towards becoming ‘Tobacco-Free by 2025’. The President of Turkmenistan adopted the National Program for Turning Turkmenistan into a Tobacco-Free Country for 2022–2025 and an Action Plan for its implementation in 2022.
During the country’s annual Tobacco Cessation Month, young people in Turkmenistan actively lead public information campaigns on the hazardous effects and risks of tobacco consumption.
Shukur Muradov, an SDG ambassador and one of the young advocates in the fight against tobacco says, “As a young advocate and a Youth Ambassador for the European Code Against Cancer (ECAC), I prioritize raising awareness among young people about the importance of staying healthy. According to the ECAC, keeping our households free of tobacco, along with following other messages, will help reduce the risk of cancer by up to 50%. I hope to help our communities by sharing this vital information.”
Another young activist and student, Lara Tuncer, adds, “According to the WHO, tobacco has resulted in more than 8 million deaths. That number is mind-blowing and heart-breaking. It includes around 1.2 million people dying from second-hand smoke. Tobacco kills not only its users, but also unfortunate bystanders or family members surrounded by people who consume tobacco products.”
Mahrijemal Meredova, a young SDG ambassador for ‘Goal 3 – Good health and well-being’, agrees, saying, “I believe that smoking should be totally banned in our community and worldwide. Smoking damages the smoker’s lungs, heart, teeth, and every other organ of the body. That is why I do my best to persuade people who use tobacco to stop smoking and inform them of its adverse effects.”
The end of Tobacco Cessation Month coincides with World No Tobacco Day. This year’s theme for the day is ‘Grow food, not tobacco’ and highlights the importance of ending tobacco-growing subsidies and accelerating the transition to sustainable crops.