As part of the celebrations of the 'World No Tobacco Day' coinciding to 31st May every year, the health sectors in the UAE organised a number of events and health awareness activities about the usage of tobacco among the community, set up active regulations that would help in avoiding smoking and raising the awareness of the community members in this regard.
The statistics of the World Health Organization revealed that tobacco causes the death of 68 per cent of non-infectious diseases such as cardiovascular and heart diseases, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases. Studies also show that the consumption rate of tobacco is high among the younger generations and adolescents.
Dr. Mahmoud Fikri, Assistant Undersecretary for Health Policies at the Ministry of Health, stated that the ministry's established anti-tobacco supporting clinics, primary health centers and preventive medicine centers to raise the awareness of the community members of the dangers of smoking and complications.
He also emphasised that tobacco is the second biggest cause of death in the world. About 5 million people die of smoking each year while the number is expected to increase to 10 million by the year 2020. The reason behind this is the increasing number of smokers all over the world, its cheap price, direct and indirect advertisements and less awareness of the dangers of the different kinds of tobacco.
Dr. Fikri assured that the United Arab Emirates gave great concern to the dangers of smoking and usage of tobacco therefore it stipulated a number of local and federal decisions that would reduce the usage of tobacco.
Since 1979, the cabinet issued a number of decisions to put health warnings on the tobacco packets and stop advertisements that would encourage the usage of tobacco on TVs and radio stations. On 1981, the customs tax decision was issued to mandate 100 per cent on all tobacco products. Additionally, the framework agreement to fight tobacco was the first international protocol to protect the health of human beings in the history of the United Nations. As a result, the UAE joined the framework agreement by the federal decision (108) and was implemented on November 2005.
Dr. Fikri said: "Since the authentication of the framework agreement, the Ministry of Health established the federal law to fight tobacco and began implementing the law since 2006. For this purpose, the ministry formed a committee that was chaired by the Ministry of Health and the membership of 15 health and societal bodies in the UAE.
His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the President of the United Arab Emirates, issued the federal decision No. 15 of 2009 to fight tobacco on 22nd December 2009.
The United Arab Emirates witnessed during the past five years a high consumption rate in tobacco usage. With the rapid economic, social and cultural progress, several habits such as shisha, chewed tobacco, cigarettes and e-cigarettes were the most common factors in the country.
According to the statistics of the Ministry of Health in cooperation with other health authorities, the percentage of cigarette consumers was 18.3 per cent among males and 0.4 per cent among females on 1995 then reached 28.1 per cent among male adults and 2.4 per cent female adults on 2003.
The statistics showed that the consumption of cigarettes increased among males on 2009 from 14.9 per cent till 17.1 per cent on 2010. The total number of tobacco consumers in 2005 increased from 12.7 per cent to 15.3 per cent in 2010 among adolescents.
Dr. Weddad Al Maidoor, Head of the Tobacco Control Committee in the Ministry of Health, emphasised that the Ministry of Health cooperated with the Standardization and Metrology Authority to implement the new packing image of the tobacco products; the package must include a clear warning message to raise the awareness of the community members with the dangers of tobacco. This message was an effective and positive way to reduce the consumption of tobacco all over the world.
The family health study between 1995-2003 revealed that the number of smoking consumers was 18.3 per cent (males) and 0.4 per cent (females) on 1995 but increased to (28.1 per cent males) and (2.4 per cent females) on 2003. The preventive study which was issued in the emirate of Abu Dhabi showed that the number of smokers in the UAE reached 30 per cent.
The tobacco consumption international survey among the youth and adolescents between 2002-2005 revealed that the number of school students between 13-15 years reached 22.36 per cent of which (30.7 per cent are boys and 14.2 per cent are girls). About 10 per cent of the tobacco consumers use cigarettes of which (12.1 per cent are boys and 3.6 per cent are girls).
The results of the survey showed that 32.3 per cent buy cigarettes from groceries while 61 per cent by tobacco products from stores. About 25.3 per cent of the students smoke in their homes while 31.6 per cent do smoke in the public places and 71.2 per cent prefer smoking in public places.
The survey also showed that 60 per cent of the students wish to stop smoking while 62 per cent of the students tried to stop smoking and 84 per cent were not offered to stop smoking.
The results of the survey also stated that 65 per cent of the smokers managed to stop smoking thanks to the media awareness messages whereas 69.2 per cent thought that media is a positive way to stop smoking; 11.4 per cent benefit from the tobacco gifts while 9.1 per cent were offered cigarettes for free. In addition, the results stated that 42.8 per cent of the survey individuals increased the community members with the dangers of tobacco while 23.3 per cent students discussed the dangers of smoking with their parents and 42.7 per cent knew about the dangers of tobacco consumption.
The World Health Organization encouraged the Middle East member states to take the necessary decisions and precautions to fight tobacco and at the same time encourage the tobacco companies to stop and fight any tobacco activities or initiatives.
On the eve of celebrating world No Tobacco Day 2012, WHO urges countries across the Eastern Mediterranean Region to adopt and implement strict tobacco control laws and measures to resist tobacco industry interference in tobacco control policies. The tobacco industry is unrelenting in its efforts to counter and undermine tobacco control initiatives and activities.
This year WHO has selected "tobacco industry interference" as the theme of World No Tobacco Day, which will be observed on Thursday, 31 May 2012. This year's campaign will focus on the need to expose and counter the tobacco industry's brazen and increasingly aggressive attempts to undermine the tobacco control measures defined in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
"Issuing laws and adopting appropriate measures to ban tobacco advertising, increase taxes on tobacco products, place pictorial health warnings on tobacco packs and ban smoking in public places are the only ways to counter the tobacco epidemic", says WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, Dr Ala Alwan. "It is the only way to fight an epidemic deadlier than history's most destructive wars".
Tobacco use kills nearly 6 million people every year, 600 000 of whom were exposed to second-hand smoke. If current trends continue, tobacco use will kill nearly 8 million people every year throughout the period leading to 2030. More than 80% of those deaths will be in low-income and middle-income countries, which include most countries of the Eastern Mediterranean Region.
"Deaths and illnesses caused by tobacco use and exposure to its smoke can be prevented", explains Dr Alwan. "The guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control are the platform, and include a set of clearly defined recommendations for addressing tobacco industry interference in public health policies".
The tobacco industry continues to alter its tactics and plans to set back tobacco control measures. Its tactics and plans include: influencing decision-makers; undermining laws to increase tobacco taxes; opposing smoking bans in public places; fighting health warnings on tobacco packs; supporting smuggling activities; manipulating and pressuring the media; undermining tobacco advertising bans; promoting tobacco use to youth; questioning religious edicts prohibiting tobacco use; and warning about unemployment and economic stagnation.
"Countries, governments, decision-makers and civil society must continue to counter tobacco industry tactics and plans on all fronts," says Dr Alwan. "It is the only way to reduce the toll of preventable disease and death caused by tobacco use".
24-hour ban on sale of tobacco, cigarettes in Dubai today
World No Tobacco Day is observed around the world every year on May 31. It is meant to encourage a 24-hour period of abstinence from all forms of tobacco consumption across the globe. The day is further intended to draw global attention to the widespread prevalence of tobacco use and to negative health effects, which currently lead to 5.4 million deaths worldwide annually. The member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) created World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) in 1987. In the past twenty years, the day has been met with both enthusiasm and resistance across the globe from governments, public health organizations, smokers, growers, and the tobacco industry.
“The move is aimed at spreading awareness about the dangers of cigarette smoking to make people think about the dangers of tobacco consumption, as it kills millions of people and affects the public health,” Redha said.
“The civic body had announced a programme to regulate smoking in public places in 31 May 2007. It has honoured many individuals and establishments for taking firm steps against smoking to promote a healthy life style in the society,” he added.