- Project Title:
- Tobacco Smoking in Russia: A Deadly Epidemic
- Issue Area:
Every six seconds, one person is killed by a tobacco related disease. Though monstrous in size, these numbers should come as no revelation given the wide range of illnesses and diseases caused by smoking tobacco. Over time, it can lead to countless health issues such as heart disease, stroke, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, psoriasis, and numerous forms of cancer. Furthermore, smoking is detrimental to the economy as it increases the amount of money spent on healthcare for smokers as well as productivity losses caused by smokers who are too ill to work.
Despite all this, tobacco smoking is still a widespread practice, especially among males in the Russian Federation, which is home to the fifth largest percentage of male adult smokers in the world and where 59% of males fifteen years and older smoke. In Russia, 28.3% of male deaths are caused by tobacco. Contributing factors to this ongoing issue include peer pressure, teenage rebellion, the desire to act more grown up, and the availability of cheap cigarettes. Though the Russian government has made strides to shrink these statistics, it has yet to directly target its most vulnerable population: teenagers.
My solution is to travel to Russia and run a leadership training program for middle schoolers which puts an emphasis on the dangers of smoking tobacco in an engaging, fun, and memorable way through games, activities and discussions. Using other teenagers to share this message will be especially effective because they are more relatable and easier to talk to than adult teachers. Coming from peers, the advisory against smoking will have a greater resonance. The early teenage years are a turbulent time, when kids are the most insecure and thus the most likely to succumb to peer pressure. In addition to simply informing students about the dangers of smoking, this course would give teens the skills and confidence needed to become active leaders and advocates in their communities against smoking, helping to promote a smoke-free Russia long after the program has concluded. However, my project doesn't end here, for studies have shown that programs such as these require consistent reinforcement in order to have a lasting effect. During my time in Russia, I would also work with and provide teachers with a curriculum that could be integrated into their lessons, reinforcing the message against smoking.
This solution not only has the power to make the Russian Federation a cleaner, healthier, and more prosperous place, but the potential to save lives by preventing the problem before it has a chance to start. Additionally, the confidence and leadership skills gained by students through this program will serve them well throughout the rest of their lives, setting them up for success. Education is the key to change. All it takes is a spark.