World No Tobacco Day

Protecting youth from nicotine addiction

Several events were held across the region to mark World No Tobacco Day on 31 May during which the WHO called on governments worldwide to place a total ban on tobacco advertising to help protect the world’s 1.8 billion young people from tobacco addiction. Stemming the tide of tobacco advertising is at the core of WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative campaign this year. Middle East Health reports.

WHO wants total ban on tobacco advertising

WHO has called on governments to protect the world’s 1.8 billion young people by imposing a ban on all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

The WHO's call to action came on the eve of World No Tobacco Day, 31 May. This year’s campaign focuses on the multi-billion dollar efforts of tobacco companies to attract young people to its addictive products through sophisticated marketing.

Recent studies prove that the more young people are exposed to tobacco advertising, the more likely they are to start smoking. Despite this, only 5% of the world’s population is covered by comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. Tobacco companies, meanwhile, continue targeting young people by falsely associating use of tobacco products with qualities such as glamour, energy and sex appeal.

“In order to survive, the tobacco industry needs to replace those who quit or die with new young consumers,” said WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan. “It does this by creating a complex 'tobacco marketing net' that ensnares millions of young people worldwide, with potentially devastating health consequences.” “A ban on all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship is a powerful tool we can use to protect the world’s youth,” Dr Chan said.

Since most people start smoking before the age of 18, and almost a quarter of those before the age of 10, tobacco companies market their products wherever youth can be easily accessed – in the movies, on the Internet, in fashion magazines and at music and sports venues. In a WHO study of 13 to 15-year-olds in schools worldwide, more than 55% of students reported seeing advertisements for cigarettes on billboards in the previous month, while 20% owned an item with logo of a cigarette brand on it.

But it is the developing world, home to more than 80% of the world’s youth, which is most aggressively targeted by tobacco companies. Young women and girls are particularly at risk, with tobacco companies seeking to weaken cultural opposition to their products in countries where women have traditionally not used tobacco.

“The tobacco industry employs predatory marketing strategies to get young people hooked to their addictive drug,” said Dr Douglas Bettcher, Director of WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative. “But comprehensive advertising bans do work, reducing tobacco consumption by up to 16% in countries that have already taken this legislative step.”

“Half measures are not enough,” added Dr Bettcher. “When one form of advertising is banned, the tobacco industry simply shifts its vast resources to another channel. We urge governments to impose a complete ban to break the tobacco marketing net,” he said.


As part of its efforts to mark World No Tobacco Day on 31 May, the UAE the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with Novartis Consumer Health, conducted a full-day workshop for medical professionals to discuss a new integrated network of smoking cessation clinics across the UAE.

The clinics provide smokers with comprehensive therapy and guidance to quit smoking. The workshop focused on guidelines that will be implemented to improve the clinics’ services and streamline processes.

“The clinics have been successful in terms of providing the public with the right support and tools to assist smoking cessation, now it is time to put into operation an integrated system that will enhance the clinics performance,” said Dr Mahmoud Fikry, Assistant Under-Secretary for Preventive Medicine, Ministry of Health.

Dr Ahmed Abdulla, Specialist and Head of Smoking Cessation Unit, Preventive Medicine, said: “As medical professionals, we know that nicotine addiction, as with any addiction, is not easy to tackle. Understanding the dependence helps us tackle sensitive issues that may otherwise be over looked. Treatment should not only include physical therapy but must also consider the emotional aspects. This way we can offer a more comprehensive solution.”

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) is internationally recognised as an effective treatment for smoking cessation. Rany Victor, Senior Brand & Sales Institutional Manager for Novartis Consumer Health, said: “Nicotinell gum and patches are available at all clinics and we are offering these treatments free of charge to all UAE Nationals who register to use the programme.”

Speaking to Middle East Health, Abdulkadir Gul, a Turkish resident in Dubai, praised the smoking cessation clinics saying that with the help of the clinic he had successfully stopped smoking.

“I’d already stopped smoking two weeks prior to going to the clinic, but I wanted some support to help keep it up. They also helped me track the changes in my body. My lungs cleared up. My blood pressure improved and I gained weight.” He said they designed a cessation programme for him and provided him with nicotine patches, the dosage of which was reduced over several sessions.

He said June marks seven months of successful no smoking. “After I finished the programme, they continued calling me to follow up, which was good.”

His only criticism was that the smoking cessation clinics were not well advertised. “I struggled to find one initially,” he said. “They should put promotional pamphlets in pharmacies,” he suggested.


In another initiative doctors from across the region gathered at a major anti-smoking workshop in Dubai, designed to discuss the skills and approaches necessary to help patients quit, as well as new advances in treating nicotine addiction.

Health experts have identified family doctors as the key focal point for the effort to reduce the health impact of smoking in the Middle East. Physicians have traditionally played a clinical role in Arab societies – diagnosing and treating patients who come to them with illnesses – but health authorities believe that a greater emphasis on counselling could have a major impact.

Institutes and health authorities from the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait were represented.

Speaking at the event, Mitchell Nides, PhD, president of Los Angeles Clinical Trials, said: “Many of the major threats to health in the 21st century are lifestyle-based, created by people’s behaviours and attitudes. By intervening and helping patients to quit smoking, doctors could reduce the incidence of major diseases like cancer and heart diseases.”

The non-nicotine antismoking treatment Champix was highlighted as an effective addition to a counselling-based approach to smoking cessation Champix is available in the UAE, Kuwait, Lebanon and Jordan.

Tobacco users lose 15 years of life

According to the WHO tobacco use is the single largest cause of preventable death in the world today. The WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic,2008 provides a comprehensive analysis, based on data from 135 countries, of patterns of tobacco use, the deaths that result and the measures to reduce deaths. Tobacco kills a third to a half of all those who use it. On average, every user of tobacco loses 15 years of life. Total tobacco-attributable deaths from ischaemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease (stroke), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other diseases are projected to rise from 5.4 million in 2004 to 8.3 million in 2030, almost 10% of all deaths worldwide. More than 80% of these deaths will occur in developing countries.

WHO recommends five policies for controlling tobacco use: smoke-free environments; support programmes for tobacco users who wish to stop; health warnings on tobacco packs; bans on the advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco; and higher taxation of tobacco. About half of all countries in the world implement none of these five recommended policies, despite the fact that tobacco control measures are cost-effective and proven. Moreover, not more than 5% of the world’s population is fully covered by any one of these measures.

 Date of upload: 23rd July 2008

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