No tobacco on World No Tobacco Day!

Ayo!’s anti-smoking campaign on World No Tobacco Day (May 31) brought much-needed awareness to public health issues caused by smoking. Ayo!’s young volunteers interacted with passers-by in downtown Yerevan, distributing educational pamphlets on the dangers of smoke and inviting smokers to give up their cigarettes in exchange for a celebratory sweet.

The street campaign was a crucial piece of Ayo!’s Breathe Freely project that started about a year ago. Breathe Freely advocates for a healthier life among the public, informing people that whether they smoke themselves or are just around others who smoke, they can suffer from an increased risk lung cancer, cardiovascular, and pulmonary disease among adults, and ear infections and allergies among children.

To combat the problem and bring awareness to this widespread public health issue, Ayo!’s Breathe Freely project has invited a number of free-style artists in Armenia to paint anti-smoking murals all over Yerevan. The murals will be a daily reminder to challenge the entrenched habits and customs among the Yerevan residents. The top three artists would get monetary prizes at the end of the project.

The Breathe Freely project is now well on its way to completion, and Ayo! is collaborating with Yerevan’s General Designer and all of the artists to make sure the murals have maximum impact. All of the artists will work together in a joint effort to create powerful murals that will not only add to Yerevan’s rich cultural atmosphere, but also educate Yerevantsis on the dangers of second-hand smoke.

“I think this is an appropriate initial step in raising public awareness of risks associated with smoking. It is a balanced approach: not too passive, and not too direct. A few people forfeited their entire pack, while many others turned in a single cigarette – and some even lit up while they walked away,” said Armenian-American passer-by Lisa Iskikian. She added, “We cannot continue to make excuses for Armenia’s high smoking rates. The public health and social consequences are simply too significant. I moved to Yerevan from the U.S. a few months ago, and while some people laugh at my smoke-avoidant behavior, many others share the same tendency.”

Lisa was so excited by Ayo!’s efforts that she joined in to distribute the educational pamphlets, hoping that she, together with the other volunteers, could start to turn the tide on Yerevan’s smoking habit.