Smoking ban to be in place next year
SHARJAH — A law to ban smoking and make UAE a tobacco-free country is expected to be in place before February 2008, a senior Health Ministry official has said.
Speaking to Khaleej Times yesterday on the sidelines of the three-day Ministry of Health (MoH) workshop titled ‘Towards a tobacco-free UAE’, being held at Radisson SAS yesterday, Dr Mariam Mattar, Assistant Under Secretary for Public Health and Primary Health Care at the MoH said, “the law is expected to be in place before the MoH submits a report on fulfilling the criteria on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) to the World Health Organisation (WHO), which has to be done by 2008.”
She added: “A draft law of the ban is ready. The implementation of the ban will save the MoH billions of dollars which it is spending on diseases caused as a result of smoking,” she explained.
She said a National Committee on Tobacco Control, headed by Dr Jassim Klaib, had been formed four months ago.
Dr Mattar said the ban was already in place in all government offices and schools. “However, once in place, strict enforcement of the ban would be required. This will require more human resources,” she added.
Dr Jassim Klaib, National Coordinator on Tobacco Control with the WHO and GCC region and Head of the National Committee on Tobacco Control admitted the MoH was trying to overcome the strong tobacco lobbying in the country.
“To fulfill the criteria for FCTC, the MoH will require that companies place health warnings on 50 per cent of the cigarette packets, instead of the present 30 per cent. We are also insisting on placement of pictures to warn people,” he explained.
He said that since the year 2000, there had been a 100 per cent tax on cigarettes. The same had also been implemented recently on shisha (hubble-bubble) in the GCC countries.
“We want the income from these taxes to be utilized on health services,” he added.
Dr Klaib recommends a separate department for anti-smoking, with qualified staff, to be set up at the MoH.
The MoH is also pushing the concerned authorities in Sharjah to enforce a ban on smoking in shopping malls in the emirate, a senior MoH official informed yesterday.
“We want Sharjah to pass a law in this regard and become a role model for other emirates because it has always been in the forefront of actively supporting the ban on smoking. It’s the only emirate that has active anti-smoking clinics wherein at least 400 people quit smoking annually,” she said.
She also said that Sharjah was the only emirate to have banned smoking of shisha in public places and had banned sale of cigarettes to those under16.
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