On June 13-14, the Center for Health Services Research and Development, American University of Armenia (CHSR/AUA) has organized two exhibitions to advocate for non-smokers’ rights in Armenia. These events were planned and implemented within a broader tobacco control advocacy project supported by the Open Society Foundations – Armenia and as a result of the fruitful collaboration between the CHSR/AUA tobacco control team and two youth educational centers the College-Studio of the National Center of Aesthetics, directed by Mr. Samvel Baghdasaryan, and Davitashen Municipality’s Youth Creativity Center, led by Mr. Armen Martirosyan.
The students of the College-Studio of the National Center of Aesthetics presented their fascinating work in front of the Yerevan State University. Using language of art, they expressed their understanding of and attitude toward the problem of smoking. The invited media interviewed young artists who passionately described their ideas transformed into paintings and multi-dimensional art objects.
The CHSR/AUA team engaged in face-to face dialog with the visitors of the exhibition, mostly students and faculty of the Yerevan State University, persuading smokers not to expose their friends and family to secondhand smoke and encouraging non-smokers to protect their right for smoke-free air at worksites and public places. They also distributed flyers with a hot-line number for non-smokers and information on health hazards of passive smoking.
Next event took place at the Youth Creativity Center of Davitashen Municipality where more than twenty children presented their anti-smoking paintings. The Head of the Davitashen’s Municipality, Mr. Gevorgyan, a non-smoker himself, emphasized the importance of raising awareness of the children about the problem of smoking and secondhand smoke exposure starting from their early ages.
Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke are one of the main public health problems in Armenia. Current tobacco control legislation only partially protects the rights of non-smokers, including children. Moreover, children are exposed to secondhand smoke not only in their homes but also in public places: according to the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS 2004), nine out of ten schoolchildren in Armenia were exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes, and eight in public places.
The CHSR team will strive together with the partners to promote the idea of the smoke-free lifestyle by bringing the paintings of the talented children and youngsters to the attention of diverse audiences, including policymakers.