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Beyond smokescreen: 16-year-old girl on mission to keep people away from puff

Asma felt the need to take it as a campaign to make the public aware of the killing smoke.

Published: 21st November 2021 06:05 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st November 2021 06:05 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

VIRUDHUNAGAR: Asma Ahamed is intrigued every time she watches an anti-smoking ad at the beginning of movie screenings. An innocuous yet powerful query rattles the 16-year-old girl from 
Aruppukottai: “Why do people still smoke?”

Nobody had an answer. Asma then felt the need to take it as a campaign to make the public aware of the killing smoke. What started as a cigarette-box collection turned into a remarkable display of anti-smoking messages with 1,000 boxes carrying an awareness message on each. She adds it was an earnest attempt at making a new world record.

Asma, a Class 11 student, grew up listening to the stories of her paternal grandfather who died due to lung cancer from his incurable smoking habit. “I still have relatives who smoke and it pains me,” she says.  She began collecting discarded cigarette boxes three years ago and has now displayed them at her school, Devangar Girls Higher Secondary at Aruppukottai. The display has earned her a place in the ‘Will Medal of World Record’ for her 1,000 quotes written on cigarette boxes against smoking. 

She brought the boxes to school and wrote the messages only during school hours in three working days between October 4 and 6 this year. Will Medal of World Records, an NGO cum an award conferring body based in Ramanathapuram, recognised Asma’s efforts, and awarded her a certificate, medal and a shield on November 3.

She faced many a difficulty while planning the project. She was interrupted by people while collecting the boxes. “I was stopped by strangers on the road when I picked them up. They made me drop it even after I told them I was collecting them for craft,” she says.

The quotes — 500 each in Tamil and English — were collected by Asma and her sister. They were handwritten by her and the school management gave additional ideas, Asma says. Headmaster Thavamani and secretary Manimaran were of utmost support, alongside her guides Indhu Kalimuthu and Manonmani, 
she adds.

Speaking to TNIE, Indhu, one of the guides for the project, said, “We conducted an exhibition for our school students — around 1,500 of them and Asma spoke to them. She said she saw them as 1,500 families, as each of them will spread the message back home. We are planning to conduct exhibitions for other school students also.”

“I asked a stranger why he smoked despite knowing its ill-effects. The reply was ridiculous — What do you know about the problems in our lives?,” recollects Asma Ahamed. Her journey towards raising awareness against smoking began when she was in Class 6. Asma dreams of a world without smoking. That’s a long way to go.



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