BAHRAIN is fully committed to fighting the epidemic of tobacco and has stepped up national efforts to control consumption and treat addicts, a top official said yesterday.
It is dedicated to implementing the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) and Bahrain's 2009 law on combating tobacco and controlling its consumption, said Acting Health Minister Dr Fatima Al Balooshi.
Under this legislation, the National Anti-smoking and Tobacco Committee had worked to ban smoking in shopping malls, schools, universities, restaurants, the airport, worshipping venues and work places, she added.
The panel is also enforcing the anti-smoking legislation, regulating sheesha smoking, promoting the dangers of smoking, organising year-round media campaigns, stepping up control of tobacco imports, increasing taxes and providing tobacco de-intoxication treatment for addicts at special clinics.
Dr Al Balooshi called for enhanced co-operation to protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to second-hand smoke.
She said that despite the progress in combating tobacco use it was still one of the biggest contributors to the epidemic of non-communicable diseases.
Every year six million people die from tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke, which is one death every six seconds.
Up to half of all tobacco users will eventually die of a tobacco-related disease.
Dr Al Balooshi was speaking on the occasion of World No Tobacco Day, which is marked annually on May 31.
Bahrain Anti-Smoking Society member Dr Kadhem Al Hawaji said the theme for this year's World No Tobacco Day was the WHO FCTC, which has been signed by 172 states, including Bahrain.
"The aim is to protect people from the hazards of tobacco use," he said.
"There is still a lot to be done but we can see people no longer smoke in the airport, malls or cold stores.
"Even no-one is allowed to smoke in his own car if he has people travelling with him under 18 years old.
"We want to enforce these laws and we have made some publications for the Ministry of Health staff to be involved in the campaign to help smokers."
American Mission Hospital (AMH) anti-smoking clinic head Dr Babu Ramachandran said Bahrain had stepped up its efforts to deter people from smoking and there was now more enforcement in cold stores which were banned from selling cigarettes in single pieces and to under 18-year-olds.
He said awareness was being generated and there were less people taking up smoking now than five years ago, but still more efforts were needed to combat the epidemic.
"According to the WHO, 45pc of all heart related deaths are due to smoking, it also causes lung problems such as bronchitis," Dr Ramachandran told the GDN.
"We need to engrain into the population that there is nothing passive about passive smoking.
"Those continuously exposed to passive smoking, such as children who are exposed in the home are more likely to suffer from asthma and coughs.
"A surprising study by WHO found that some children who are exposed to passive smoking may find their cognitive ability is affected."
Dr Ramachandran said the most effective way to quit smoking was to go "cold turkey" by giving up completely.
Otherwise they can take nicotine patches or gum, but only for an absolute maximum of six months, he said.
"It's not just about having a replacement for nicotine, you need a support system from your family and friends and to stay away from smoking environments," said Dr Ramachandran.
He said the AMH was marking World No Tobacco Day with a free guidance clinic on the effects of smoking on people's health.
Smokers will be given a spirometry test, which assesses lung function.
"They will know if their lung function is restricted and this might motivate them to quit smoking," said Dr Ramachandran.
The clinic will be open today from 9am to noon and 7pm to 9pm at the AMH chest department and will be conducted by a team of hospital physicians.
People interested in making an appointment at the clinic can call 17253447, extension number 255.
Smokers wishing to quit the habit can also visit Dr Ramachandran's clinic at the AMH, from Sunday to Thursday and Hoora Health Centre's anti-smoking clinic on Wednesdays, from 7am to 2pm, and Mondays and Wednesdays, from 5pm to 9pm.
By REBECCA TORR
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