Health officials yesterday urged youths, especially females, to be wary of the harmful effects of smoking and tobacco use on their health and that of the community at large.
They were taking part in a one-day public seminar to mark the ‘World No Tobacco Day’ organised by the Supreme Council of Health’s Anti-Smoking Campaign Committee with a slogan: “Boys and Girls For Change: Tobacco Control Now”.
Observed around the world every year on May 31, ‘World No Tobacco Day’ is meant to encourage a 24-hour period of abstinence from all forms of tobacco consumption across the globe.
The day is also to draw global attention to the widespread prevalence of tobacco use and to negative health effects, which currently lead to 5.4mn deaths worldwide annually.
The World Health Organisation’s theme for the year is “Gender and Tobacco with an emphasis on marketing to women”.
Making a speech on behalf of the HE Minister of Public Health and SCH Secretary General, Abdullah bin Khalid al-Qahtani, assistant minister for Medical Affairs at the SCH, Dr Saleh al-Merri said that since July 2002, Qatar has adopted several important measures to prevent the use of tobacco and all its derivatives.
These include strict vigilance on the age of those buying tobacco products, banning of its sale to school-going students and penal action against those who violate the rules on smoking areas in public places and buildings.
He said the ministry has launched a large scale campaign against tobacco by publishing several leaflets and booklets highlighting the harmful effects of tobacco and its derivatives.
“One billion cigarettes are smoked a year in Qatar and while 40% of the smokers are adult, 22% are teenagers and the country’s smoking rates were found to be double of those in Europe,” he pointed out.
The official said that Qatar has spent more than $150mn a year on treating smoking-related diseases. “We have set up special smoking cessation clinics in Hamad Hospital and Al Khor Hospital and we have plans of opening three more to provide services on how to quit smoking to people,” he mentioned.
He mentioned that the country will also ensure that at least 30% of the cigarettes package shows dangers of tobacco.
Public Health department director Dr Mohamed al-Thani highlighted that every six seconds, one person dies because of smoking and one among every 10 adults dies due to smoking.
“Qatar has taken stringent measures to combat smoking and the use of tobacco and its derivatives,” he mentioned.
WHO regional office consultant Dr Ibrahim Kalatani urged youths to be ambassador for change by abstaining from smoking saying that minors and women were becoming more exposed to tobacco products both at home and in the public arena.
“The harmful effects of tobacco is not limited to cigarettes only but other products such as Shesha is also very dangerous to health and the unfortunate thing is many non-smokers are falling victims of passive smoking as they are being forced to inhale 4,000 chemical substances against their will,” he said.
Highlights of the event were exhibition of different smoking cessation techniques, distribution of information pamphlets and showcasing of prize winning entries of inter-school painting competition organised for students by Anti-Smoking Society Qatar.
Short documentary films packaged by the WHO were also featured during the event.