By David Ingham
Preventative health, the idea that you take measures to stop people getting ill in the first place, is a great idea.
Preventative health, the idea that you take measures to stop people getting ill in the first place, is a great idea. It's why we subject small children to a succession of injections in their first year of life, constantly remind people of the need to eat healthily and do some exercise, and force drivers to wear seatbelts.
So when GCC countries start talking about the ills of smoking, you begin to wonder where the action is. Saudi Arabia, for example, says it plans to bring a lawsuit against US tobacco firms, but even if the lawsuit does go anywhere, will it stop people smoking? Absolutely not. The UAE has talked endlessly about enforcing a ban on smoking in public places and controlling cigarette advertising more closely, but it just hasn't happened yet.
The Middle East's love for cigarettes is obvious everywhere you go and becomes even more so when you have children whom you want to protect from second-hand smoke.
Shopping malls, coffee shops and just about every public place in a GCC country is full of cigarette smoke and the concept of non-smokers simply isn't taken seriously.
Coffee shops, for example, will put non-smoking sections at the back of the store, so that non-smokers have to walk through clouds of smoke to get to them. In many establishments, non-smoking signs may be visible, but are simply ignored by customers and employees. In Dubai, there is a well known convenience store chain that allows people to smoke inside the shop whilst eating snacks they have purchased there. Go to any public park in the GCC and you will see countless parents lighting up in front of their children.
The problem is that smoking hasn't been stigmatised the way it has in other parts of the world. Bans on smoking in public places need to be declared, and rigorously enforced, immediately. The cost of a pack of 20 should be raised from less than two dollars to at least six. Public awareness campaigns need to be unrelenting and straight-to-the-point about the horrors of smoking.
Making life hard for smokers isn't an exercise in spoiling people's fun. Sometimes people do need to be protected from themselves, and authorities shouldn't retreat from drastic action because they fear doing something unpopular. Do you think European and American citizens were happy when they were banned from smoking in public places? They definitely weren't, but they have learned to live with it. And if government authorities need any justification, they should think about the amount of money they spend treating smoking-related illnesses. Why spend potential fortunes treating people who are ill, when you could spend far less stopping them becoming ill in the first place?
"Prevention is better than Cure". Though it is the necessity of the day to enforce No-Smoking laws, it is rather more and more necessary to immediately initiate right steps to awaken to-day's Youth NOT to toe the deadly-tobacco-ine. With this exercise, anya country shall be able to build a strengthy Tobacco-Free-Brigade within a period of next 10 years. In this connection, I request the permission of the Editor to submit a NOVEL AND INNOVATING STOBACCO-CONTROL PROPOSAL suitable for the students of the Primary/Middle/Secondary Schools, for consideration, evaluation and publication of an article, to enable me to invite the attention of all stakeholders interested in creating a Tobacco-free world. Expecting to receive an immediate and positive response please. V.R.Nathan India.