In Ladakh, now a movement to banish tobacco products

On November 18, 2015; a group of young people started a journey with increasing consciousness among people about cost of tobacco consumption and increasing incidence of cancer in Ladakh.

The journey has now become a movement with Ladakhis especially youngsters quitting smoking on their own. This group calls this mass awareness programme “Healthy Ladakh Movement”. Over the last 3 months, this group claims to have visited more than 60 villages and 4 educational institutions, interacted with more then 4000 peoples, traveled 3500 kms and spoken for about 10,800 minutes.

Such is the seriousness towards the cause that members of group shared a photograph with Newspoint Bureau while saying that names of the group members are not important but it is the message which is significant. This group kept the fight alive despite being repeatedly told that it is fighting losing battle since tobacco consumption is part of Ladakhi culture. None lost the courage despite being ridiculed.

On the whole, this group of young people noticed that the majority of people have least idea about the consequences of alcohol consumption and greater permeation during various ceremonies such as marriages. Many told this group that the anti-tobacco movement in Ladakh is probably incomprehensible.

In the midst of such confusion, team of Healthy Ladakh Movement reached out to the remotest corners of Ladakh, apprising people about the dangers of using tobacco and products related to it. Most of the pro-tobacco lobby thought that “Healthy Ladakh Movement” was aimed putting a blanket ban on use of tobacco in Ladakh. However, the members of the group repeatedly aid that they have no such plans and they are just spreading awareness and leaving it to people to decide what they want to do.

The team of HLM maintains that it is the time the women and children who suffer on daily basis to decide what is good for them in particular and the society in general. The movement repeatedly refers to Kushok Bakula, the architect of Modern Ladakh and the most renowned spiritual and political leaders of Ladakh and says that he traveled nook and corner of Ladakh pleading people to educate younger generation.

Movement has on its Facebook page stated that Bakula valiantly fought against corruption, polyandry, animal sacrifices, child marriages and tobacco. Let us realize his dream of healthy Ladakh, says the Healthy Ladakh Movement team. It asserts that its fight is against emerging trend of younger people using tobacco products, increasing tobacco consumption among youngsters and women, greater penetration at the village level and increasing preference for dangerous tobacco products.

The movement has categorically said that if this trend of heavy smoking and excessive use of tobacco products continues, Ladakhi children will not survive beyond 50 years of age. The movement claims with pride that it got written agreement from 30 out of sixty villages that they will not allow use tobacco and tobacco related products.

Those who signed the agreements included Gompa, Sankar, Chubi Yangtse, Malpak, Housing Colony, Skampari, Skara Yokma , Skara Gogma and Shenam Gogma areas of Leh city. The movement maintains that it is not against those who smoke cigarettes but the aim is to make one feel pain of addiction and dependence which every addicted person wants to get rid of it. It says that day is not far when Ladakh would be healthier and happier.

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