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Tobacco war goes to Sharjah supermarkets

Afkar Abdullah / 4 May 2012

The Sharjah Municipal Council on Thursday drafted a law banning the sale of tobacco in all groceries and supermarkets located in residential areas in the emirate.

The move is part of the council’s efforts to ensure public health and fight the bad habit of smoking among students and children.

The meeting chaired by council chairman Salim Al Shamsi recommended referring the draft law to higher authorities for approval.

A top official at the municipality said the new law has been drafted following an increasing number of complaints from parents that groceries are not abiding by the instructions not to sell tobacco products to minors.  A number of schools have also lodged complaints about shops encouraging smoking among teenagers.

The draft law includes tough penalties against violating shops, starting from issuing warning letters, followed by temporary or  permanent shutdown.

Once the law is approved, the municipality would serve notices on all supermarkets and groceries and give them enough time to implement the law. After that period, the municipality would intensify inspections and punish errant outlets.

A federal anti-tobacco law is also ready but awaits implementation. By August, tobacco products in the country will carry graphic images and warnings that will cover 50 per cent of the packet.

Health authorities in the country spend millions of dirhams on treating cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) caused by smoking, hypertension, physical inactivity and diabetes among other risk factors. These diseases are also the leading cause of death in the Emirates. One in every four deaths is due to CVDs while smoking causes one-tenth of such diseases worldwide. Tobacco-related deaths have nearly tripled in the past decade and big tobacco firms are undermining public efforts that could save millions, a report led by the health campaign group the World Lung Foundation said in March.

The report said if current trends continue, a billion people will die from tobacco use and exposure this century — one person every six seconds. Tobacco has killed 50 million people in the last 10 years, and tobacco is responsible for more than 15 per cent of all male deaths and seven per cent of female deaths, the new Tobacco Atlas report found.

The world’s six biggest tobacco firms made $35.1 billion in profits in 2010 — equal to the combined earnings of Coca-Cola, Microsoft and McDonald’s, the report said.

According to a survey, there has been a quantum leap in the number of student smokers over the past five years. Also, 82 per cent of youngsters have had their first cigarette by the age of 14.


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