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Saving Our Youth: From Puff to Pill

12:00 AM May 31, 2024 IST | SHAHID ALI KHAN
saving our youth  from puff to pill

As we observe No Tobacco Day today, it is important to think about how widespread and harmful smoking is, especially among youth. Even though we know how dangerous smoking is, it is still common to see young boys smoking in and around educational institutions. This issue is not only a health crisis but also a social and economic one, threatening the future of our younger generation and, consequently, the nation.


As an academician involved in youth development and empowerment at the University of Kashmir for the past two decades, and having traveled extensively across the country and beyond, I have directly witnessed the troubling frequency of smoking among students. Throughout my career, I have encountered young people from diverse backgrounds and regions, and it is distressing to see how common smoking has become among them.


Despite numerous awareness campaigns and educational efforts, many students continue to smoke, often starting at a very young age. This alarming trend is evident within colleges, universities, and various other educational institutions across the nation, including among the youth of the Kashmir Valley, the paradise on earth.


Kashmir is a paradise not only because of its breathtaking natural beauty but also due to the blessings of great Sufis. We have a responsibility to carry forward the legacy of Sufism, characterized by purity, kindness, and the eradication of social evils.


The people of Kashmir are known as the people from the peer wair, the land of purity and blessings. We bear the significant responsibility of keeping the Valley of Kashmir clean and prosperous.


The prevalence of smoking and drug use among our youth highlights a deep-rooted issue that affects not only their health but also their academic performance and overall well-being. Although the sale of cigarettes near educational institutions is prohibited by law, the reality is starkly different.


It is disheartening to see young boys smoking on the premises of educational institutions. Even more concerning is the fact that these young individuals are aware of the harmful effects of smoking, yet they continue to engage in this dangerous behavior.


Smoking among students is not just an issue of individual health; it reflects a broader societal failure to protect our youth from such vices. These young minds are, unfortunately, drawn into the destructive habit of smoking.

This habit not only endangers their health but also serves as a gateway to more severe forms of drug addiction. This situation calls for immediate and collective action from all sectors of society to safeguard our future generations.

Smoking is often the first step towards substance abuse. The nicotine in cigarettes creates a dependency that can lead to the use of more potent and dangerous drugs. It is a tragic irony that the very youth who should be the custodians of our future are being trapped by addiction. The situation is worsened by the fact that both boys and girls are increasingly falling victim to this menace, reflecting a broader and more widespread crisis.

The implications of this trend are dire. Drug addiction among youth leads to a host of social problems, including increased crime rates. Desperation to fund their addiction drives some young people to engage in illegal activities, creating a vicious cycle of crime and substance abuse. This not only ruins individual lives but also destabilizes communities, eroding the social fabric that binds us together.

The primary responsibility of our youth is to focus on their education and personal development. However, the grip of smoking and drug addiction severely hampers this. Addicted students often lose interest in their studies, leading to poor academic performance and increased dropout rates. The time and energy that should be invested in learning and growth are instead consumed by the pursuit of addictive substances.

This trend poses a significant threat to the future of Jammu and Kashmir. The youth represent the potential for innovation, progress, and leadership. When this potential is squandered on smoking and drug addiction, the loss is not just personal but national.

Our dreams of a prosperous and advanced society hinge on the well-being and productivity of our younger generation. It is our utmost responsibility to save our young minds from falling into these destructive habits. We cannot afford to lose our fertile minds to addiction; we must act decisively and immediately to safeguard our future.

The rising menace of drug addiction comes at a time when competition is fierce in every sector, whether it be service, business, or others. Although it is late, it is not too late to save our youth. Addressing this social responsibility must be a top priority.

If we fail to curb this now, our youth will be unable to compete with their counterparts from other parts of the world in education, services, jobs, and business, leading to an irreplaceable loss. Our youth possess immense potential and talent, but their success rates are declining, which is a concerning trend that needs to be addressed.

We must inspire our youth to look ahead, offering them ample opportunities to shape their futures and compete successfully with the brightest minds globally. This goal can only be achieved if parents, elders, and educational institutions sincerely take up their responsibilities.

Parents must closely monitor their children and spend quality time with them. Unfortunately, many individuals remain absorbed in their cellphones, scrolling through irrelevant content for fleeting entertainment, thereby neglecting their children's needs and activities.

The role of teachers is equally vital. We need to prioritize quality teaching, training, counseling, and discreetly monitoring our youth for their better future and the prosperous future of our sacred land. Our fertile land requires fertile minds. Regrettably, the internet and the proliferation of cellphone content have diverted our attention.

Parents themselves are often too engrossed with screens to pay attention to their children's activities. It is imperative that we awaken to this reality and replace internet entertainment with love and affection for our children, ensuring they receive the proper care, attention, and supervision they deserve.

We must recognize that the future of our society depends on the well-being of our youth. This requires a collective effort from all sectors of society. Parents should actively engage with their children, showing genuine interest in their lives and guiding them towards positive activities. Educational institutions should implement programs that educate students about the dangers of smoking and drug addiction, providing support for those who may be struggling.

Policy-makers also have a role to play. They must create and enforce laws that limit the availability of tobacco and drugs, particularly around schools and colleges. Public awareness campaigns can highlight the dangers of smoking and drug use, encouraging a societal shift towards healthier lifestyles.

We find ourselves at a pivotal moment. The choices we make today will shape not only the future of our youth but also the destiny of Jammu and Kashmir. It is imperative that we awaken and take bold measures to tackle the escalating challenge of drug addiction.

By developing a supportive, attentive, and caring environment for our young people, we can help them realize their potential and secure a prosperous future for our region. It is a collective responsibility that requires immediate and sustained action. Let us commit to this cause with the urgency and dedication it deserves.

As we observe No Tobacco Day, let us renew our commitment to combating the scourge of smoking. The health and future of our youth depend on our actions today. By creating smoke-free environments and developing a culture of health and awareness, we can ensure that our young people have the opportunity to realize their full potential.

Shahid Ali Khan is an academician who currently holds the position of Cultural Officer at the University of Kashmir.