World No Tobacco Day

Warnings with images
most effective –WHO


World No Tobacco Day – part of the WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative – will be marked on 31 May this year with the theme “Tobacco Health Warnings” to highlight the effect that health warnings – especially those with images – have on motivating users to quit and reducing the appeal of tobacco for those who are not yet addicted. The WHO points out that 9 out of 10 people live in countries that do not require warnings with pictures on tobacco packages.

Tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death. More than five million people die from the effects of tobacco every year – more than from HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. It is the only legal consumer product that kills when used exactly as the manufacturer intends. Up to half of all smokers will die from a tobacco-related disease. “Requiring warnings on tobacco packages is a simple, cheap and effective strategy that can vastly reduce tobacco use and save lives,” says the WHO.

Iraqi Global Youth Tobacco Survey results announced

On 3 April the WHO released the results of the 2008 Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) in Baghdad conducted by the Ministry of Health of Iraq. A worrying result of the survey indicates a dramatic increase in the number of girls who may start smoking for the first time. Figures also indicate a preference for shisha smoke among youth.

GYTS is a school-based survey of students aged 13-15 years. According to the results, shisha appears to be a preferred form of tobacco used among young people. This is a concern because the harmful health effects of shisha use can exceed those of cigarette smoking. Results of the survey showed that boys were 97% more likely to have ever smoked shisha than to have ever smoked cigarettes (14.6% versus 7.4%, respectively), whereas girls were 51% more likely to have ever smoked shisha. Current use of shisha was two-fold greater than cigarette smoking for boys (6.7% versus 3.3%) and girls (5.0% versus 2.7%). Overall, 13% of youth who have never smoked indicated they might initiate cigarette smoking in the next year.

The results of the survey also showed that the likely initiation of cigarette smoking by girls who have never smoked cigarettes (11.8%) is significantly higher than the current cigarette smoking rate for girls (2.7%) and may result in an increase in the future burden of disease caused by tobacco use in Iraq.

According to the report overall, current cigarette smoking in Baghdad (3.2%) is similar to that of the 21 WHO member states of the Eastern Mediterranean Region (4.9%). Current smoking among boys in Baghdad (3.3%) is lower than the rate (7.3%) for the region, but the rate for girls is similar (2.7% and 2.0%, respectively). Data on shisha smoking by adolescents in the Eastern Mediterranean Region were not available.

Future declines in adolescent tobacco use in Iraq could be enhanced by fully implementing tobacco prevention and cessation programmes, including legislation that eliminates pro-tobacco advertising and sponsorship, and exposure to secondhand smoke in all indoor workplaces.

“This survey is one of the efforts exerted by Iraq and the health authorities to control tobacco. Last year, the tobacco control efforts were crowned by the endorsement of the WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC) by the Iraqi Parliament,” said Dr Naeema El-Gaseer, WHO Representative in Iraq.

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control obligates its more than 160 countries parties to require “health warnings describing the harmful effects of tobacco use” on packs of tobacco and their outside packaging and recommends that the warnings contain pictures.

By ratifying the WHO FCTC, the MoH of Iraq has obligated the government to develop a comprehensive tobacco control programme. WHO has identified six policy areas that countries should include in their tobacco control programmes to maximise effect: 1) raising taxes on tobacco; 2) banning advertising promotion and sponsorship; 3) reducing exposure to secondhand smoke; 4) establishing tobacco cessation programmes; 5) informing the public regarding the dangers of tobacco; and 6) establishing surveillance programmes aimed at monitoring tobacco use and policies.

During 2008, the MoH expanded tobacco control efforts in Iraq and adopted some of the tenants of these policies by developing several tobacco-control strategies in addition to conducting the GYTS. According to the report, the MoH will need to further expand its tobacco control efforts to meet the goals WHO has established in each of the six policy areas. Future GYTS can be used to monitor and evaluate the programmes implemented to meet those goals and obligations.

● The full GYTS-Bagdad report can be downloaded here: obacco_useBaghdad_en.pdf

● The WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008 - The MPOWER package can be downloaded here [8MB]:
Both these reports are also available in Arabic.

ate of upload: 16th May 2009

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