Thursday 02 December 2021 - 7:08:59 pm

Editorial: World needs to do more on tobacco control


ABU DHABI, 13th June 2020 (WAM) - The World Health Organization’s (WHO) recent observation that even during a global pandemic, the tobacco and nicotine industry has continued to promote products that limit people’s ability to fight new coronavirus and recover from the disease deserves serious attention and calls for corrective measures, observed 'Gulf Today'.

In an editorial today, the paper said it is distressing that tobacco products continue to kill eight million people a year who get hooked via a $9 billion a year marketing strategy.

For this year’s World No Tobacco Day – marked on May 31 – the agency focused on protecting teenagers, who are a key target sector.

As per shocking estimates, more than 40 million young people today aged 13-15, have already started to use tobacco. Smoking suffocates the lungs and other organs, starving them of the oxygen they need to develop and function properly.

As per Ruediger Krech, Director for Health Promotion at WHO, "Educating youth is vital because nearly nine out of 10 smokers start before age 18. We want to provide young people with the knowledge to speak out against tobacco industry manipulation."

In a bid to help prevent addiction among 13-17-year-olds, the agency has highlighted commonly used tactics to watch out for.

Smoking e-cigarettes and hookah pipes – marketed as "safer" alternatives to conventional cigarettes - is harmful, addictive, and increases the risk of developing heart and lung disease.

Most of the 15,000 flavours on offer – such as bubble-gum and candy are there to attract youngsters who at least double their chance of smoking cigarettes later in life. Other marketing strategies during the COVID-19 have included the offer of free branded masks and a home delivery service during quarantine.

It is good that to reach more young people and amplify its message, WHO has also launched the #TobaccoExposed challenge on popular youth online platform TikTok, and welcomed social media partnerships with other platforms including Pinterest and YouTube.

Interestingly, WHO also launched a classroom activities kit that puts the students in the shoes of the tobacco industry to make them aware of how the industry tries to manipulate them into using their products. Most people know that smoking causes cancer and lung disease, but what many fail to realise is that tobacco use and exposure to second hand smoke are also major causes of cardiovascular disease, contributing to millions of deaths every year.

To keep the population safe, countries need to implement increasingly strict tobacco control measures.

These include making indoor public and workplaces smoke-free and insisting that tobacco packaging carries warnings that demonstrate the health risks for users.

Spreading the message that tobacco causes deadly illnesses such as heart disease and stroke helps prevent needless loss of life.

The lack of awareness about the risks of tobacco use, is common in low- and middle-income countries, as per UN officials.

In the UAE, the authorities have implemented strict precautionary measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, including temporarily closing cafés and restaurants and banning them from serving water pipes also known as ‘argileh’.

The import of water pipe tobacco and electrically heated cigarettes that do not carry the digital tax stamps was banned on March 1, 2020, as part of phase two of the ‘Marking Tobacco and Tobacco Products Scheme’.

The digital tax stamps allow for digitally tracking the designated products from the manufacturing facility until the products reach the end consumer, ensuring that set standards and criteria are satisfied and that excise tax obligations are met.

WAM/Hassan Bashir