#SmokeFreeUAE: Make every day No Tobacco Day
Tobacco claims 8.2 million lives every year.
First, the facts. According to a World Health Organization fact sheet, tobacco kills up to half of its users. Let that sink in. More than 19,000 people die every day as a result of direct tobacco use while another 3,000-plus non-smokers die per day as a result of being exposed to second-hand smoke. Tobacco claims 8.2 million lives every year. The link between smoking and lung cancer was conclusively proven in the 1950s - yet, seventy years later, we continue to subject ourselves and the next generation to this venom in one form or another. It's an epidemic that kills more people than Aids, diabetes, high blood pressure, suicides, and murders put together.
The stats are stark, but so is our indifference.
Eight in 10 smokers worldwide live in low- and middle-income countries. Such nations do not necessarily have the regulatory, healthcare or surveillance wherewithal to counter the ill-effects of tobacco addiction. The epidemic eats into the poorer nations' economic potential and precious healthcare funding, and hinders poverty alleviation initiatives. Often, even tobacco taxes fail to make a dent in this vicious cycle thanks to illicit tobacco trade powered by large criminal organisations and even terror outfits.
But how - and why - are they allowed to market death at all?
Wily old Big Tobacco is constantly on the lookout for new ways of targeting the younger generation. There was a time, not too long ago, when we thought nothing of glorifying smoking through advertising and featuring it as 'cool' in even PG-rated movies, on television and in other media. While a comprehensive ban on direct tobacco advertising is now in place in most countries, there still remains the problem of surrogate advertising and sponsorships by which tobacco companies, their agents, and affiliates continue to undermine the move towards a tobacco-free world.
The relatively lightweight oversight of newer platforms - including social media - allows such things as 'user-created content' and sponsorships to exploit the loopholes and target teens and young adults. Authorities across the world have woken up to the fact that even if taxation helps discourage the use of tobacco, the revenue thus collected is nowhere near the long-term investments in health and cancer care required to fix the damage done by tobacco.
Is there anything individuals and businesses can do?
Glad you asked. Government bodies, healthcare agencies and non-government organisations are doing all they can to put a cap on this menace. They're raising taxes and awareness, helping the addicts kick the habit, and offering support to kids and families most affected by the addiction. But keeping in mind all the factors at play, this is an issue that will take an all-hands-on-deck approach, with individuals having a much bigger role to play than any other artist. The first step is to acknowledge that tobacco in any form is harmful, be it cigarettes, cigars, pipes, water pipes (shisha, hookah), chewing and sniffing tobacco, dissolvables or vaping and e-cigarettes.
At Khaleej Times, we realise that the media has a pivotal role to play here, and we'll do all we can to help the tobacco control initiatives. We, of course, do not accept tobacco advertising or support its use in any form and remain conscious and cautious against condoning its use even by association. But the war on tobacco is a long and hard one. It needs us to actively discourage the addiction to counter the epidemic, and we're up for the task.
Our #KTforGood campaign for the first month of this decade aims to highlight the harmful effects of tobacco addiction and encourage addicts to quit the habit today. Join us in this initiative by sharing your experience, offering tips and volunteering time, or simply resharing our social media messages to reach a wider audience. Search for the hashtag #SmokeFreeUAE. Let's together make every day No Smoking Day.
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