ADRA Fights Tobacco Use in Mongolia

13 Jan 2010 17:26:00 GMT
Source: Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) International
Nadia McGill

SILVER SPRING, Md.--In Mongolia, where more than half of the city-dwelling adult population smokes tobacco, an increase in its use is having a devastating effect on the individual health of its residents, reports the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA).

An estimated 65 percent of urban men and 21 percent of women are routine smokers, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Among young people in Mongolia, smoking is a worsening problem. It is estimated that 19 percent of boys and eight percent of girls between the ages of 14 and 17 are smokers, increasing the rate of tobacco-related diseases, which are now the leading cause of death in that country.

"In Mongolia, smoking is widespread both in public places and in the workplace," said Saraa Delegchoimbol, health coordinator for ADRA Mongolia. "Despite bans on tobacco advertising and restriction on selling tobacco to minors, many of these laws are not enforced. Even children can access them easily."

To address the problem in Mongolia, ADRA began a three-year project in 2008 called Health Education Against Tobacco, or HEAT, to motivate policy makers to make more stringent tobacco policies, and to help Mongolian youth stop smoking before they even start.

The project is being implemented through three key strategies: advocacy, a mass media communication campaign, and community mobilization.

"Many policy and decision makers have a lack of knowledge of the health hazards of tobacco use and pro-tobacco influences and traditionally refuse to acknowledge smoking as a development issue," said Delegchoimbol. "To address this, awareness raising and advocacy campaigns for policy/decision makers at all levels are needed."

To meet those needs, ADRA is targeting government leaders and policy and decision makers through a series of advocacy meetings and seminars designed to provide education on the negative effects of tobacco use, and encourage the enforcement of key policies that relate directly to tobacco advertising and increasing the control of children's access to tobacco.

ADRA is also conducting seminars for media officials and reporters to increase awareness on tobacco consumption, targeting major national television and radio stations, as well as daily newspapers, distributing relevant and informative materials on the subject for media and within the targeted community and conducting public events that raise awareness about the impact of tobacco consumption on a person's health.

"Since the tobacco industry freely advertises its products through all of these mediums, it is crucial that we use the same mediums to promote the enforcement of tobacco legislation, and counter pro-tobacco influences and replace tobacco industry sponsorship," added Delegchoimbol.

ADRA also created a civil society network on tobacco control, partnering with other organizations involved in tobacco control, and international networks to share resources and advocate for specific policy changes or enforcement.

Nearly 100 young people from various schools in the Mongolian capital of Ulanbaatar have also received training in life skills as Junior Leaders and Peer Educators at their schools, educating their friends and fellow classmates on the short-term and long-term effects of tobacco use, and providing them with the skills that they need to resist peer pressure and other societal pressures to smoke.

At least 3,000 students will benefit from this aspect of the project by its completion, as well as other school-based activities initiated by adult educators, including local school administrators and parents, to help build a tobacco-free school environment for students.

"Research shows that trained peer educators or junior leaders are a more credible source of information for many youth than adult educators, because they communicate in readily understandable ways, and serve as positive role models," continued Delegchoimbol. "That is why it is so important to tap that resource, motivating them to reach their peers, teach them about smoking, and help them to make right decision."

ADRA is partnering with the World Health Organization, the Mongolian government, the Public Health Institute, the Ulaanbaatar City Education Department, as well as local government authorities and mass media organizations to implement this project.

HEAT is funded by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) through ADRA Australia.

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ADRA is a non-governmental organization present in 125 countries providing sustainable community development and disaster relief without regard to political or religious association, age, gender, race or ethnicity.

For more information about ADRA, visit



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