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While still early into its campaign, the thromde is finding that the public is not abiding by its prohibition on spitting doma and smearing tsuney in public spaces.

Many have claimed to be unaware of the rule which was enforced from November, last year.

The lack of success is understandable. We are trying to stop a habit that has existed for decades. An overnight change in behaviour cannot be achieved.

While the thromde did announce the rule through the media, perhaps, awareness raising needs to be sustained not only through mainstream media but also social media. Awareness raising on the very streets using students or volunteer advocates could also be pursued.

The current fine is Nu 100 per instance. This is a small amount designed to raise awareness rather than penalize the offender. Raising the fine is an option being considered. Given the small number of inspectors at its disposal, whether a heftier fine will be effective is questionable.

But with spitting doma and smearing tsuney almost second nature for the majority of doma chewers, the risk of a heavy fine could cause them to second guess their ugly habit.

But heavy fines don’t completely deter a habit. It is still common to see drivers speak on their mobile phones despite the heavy fine they could pay if caught by the many traffic police personnel monitoring our roads.

Maybe the thromde could crowd source ideas on how to deter doma chewers from dirtying public spaces. With the thromde facing a shortage of inspectors, some possible solutions could be coming to an arrangement with building owners and businesses who already use CCTV systems. Such establishments could be encouraged to also train a camera or two onto areas where usually doma is spit or tsuney smeared.

Such establishments may be more than happy to cooperate as it saves their infrastructure from being vandalized.

The thromde could then publicize this footage to embarrass the offender. For instance, in one east Asian country, giant posters of litterers who are caught on CCTV are displayed publicly. While it may seem like a harsh reaction, out-of-the-box ideas have to be considered in the face of such entrenched habits.

One of the obvious but long term strategies is to discourage people from chewing doma in the first place. A sustained media campaign could be launched by the health sector on the negative health impacts of doma specifically targeting the youth. Many youth are already being turned off by the habit but many still choose to chew doma. Such campaigns have been successful in the West in turning youth away from cigarettes.

Parents also need to be educated because it is their habit that is emulated by the next generation and so on. How adults can be stopped from giving up what is basically an addiction will require a herculean effort on both the part of the adult and the health service.

Other east Asian countries have battled this problem, like Thailand and Taiwan. They could be good good case studies on how we can go forward while at the same time avoiding mistakes.

The most important aspect is that the campaign must be sustained now that it has begun.

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