KSA acts to reduce harmful effects of tobacco products

Commerce Minister Tawfik Al-Rabiah. (SPA)

Commerce Minister Tawfik Al-Rabiah. (SPA)

Commerce Minister Tawfik Al-Rabiah refuted rumors via Twitter that there would be a hike in tobacco prices in the Kingdom.

The Kingdom will, however, increase the specifications of tobacco products to minimize its harmful effects on smokers, the minister said on Saturday.

The Kingdom joined the anti-tobacco agreement in May 2005.

Saudi Arabia ranks fourth in the world for tobacco imports and consumption. More than 15 billion cigarettes, worth $168 million, are smoked by Saudis each year, according to figures released by the Gulf Cooperation Council’s Health Ministers Council.

The minister stressed that decisions on price increases are taken by the GCC Finance Ministers Council.

“The Kingdom has not given any signal for the increase in the price of tobacco products,” the minister added.

The Ministry of Health, in cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Atlanta-based Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will launch a Kingdom-wide survey on adult smokers by September, according to Ali Alwadey, director-general of the ministry’s tobacco control program.

The director-general said that the study will be conducted among 8,000 families living in different parts of the Kingdom.

“The survey will help authorities plan out future programs on combating smoking and will cover all age groups and people from all walks of life,” he said. He also said the ministry has gotten approval to conduct the survey.

Alwadey said that the study will be carried out over a period of eight months and that the report will be available for decision-makers and planners soon after it is presented to the Ministry of Health.

The Health Ministry has launched a mobile service to assist smokers in kicking the habit.

“We have deployed 10 mobile units that will visit all parts of the Kingdom in the next 12 months to assist smokers to unlearn their habit,” he noted.

He said the mobile service would visit malls, parks and other public places most frequented by smokers to tell them about the hazards of the habit and how to give it up.

There are 44 clinics across the Kingdom that are dedicated to serving smokers and counseling them about the hazards of smoking.

According to reports, 19 percent of Saudis are smokers. A sizable number of the student population is also addicted to smoking.

Around 14 percent of the students aged between 13 and 15 years are smokers.

The report also said that there has been an increase in the number of youth who smoke “shisha” (the hubbly bubbly), while others now chew tobacco.

The WHO renewed its call for more action, warning that tobacco use could kill a billion people or more over the course of the 21st century “unless urgent action is taken.”

Lung cancer kills one person every quarter of an hour. If current trends continue, tobacco will kill more than 8 million people worldwide each year by 2030, with 80 percent of these premature deaths occurring among people living in low and middle-income countries,” the WHO added.

It pointed out that tobacco remains the biggest cause of preventable deaths worldwide, killing nearly 6 million people and costing hundreds of billions of dollars in economic damage each year.


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