Women smokers on the rise in Bahrain
, June 21, 2014
One in every 14 women in Bahrain is now a smoker, according to the latest figures from the kingdom's health ministry.
The statistic - which officials from the Anti-Smoking Committee described as "disappointing" - actually reflects a slight dip in women taking up the unhealthy habit since 2007, when a Health Ministry survey found that eight per cent of females were smokers, .
But there has been a marked increase since 1991, when a Central Informatics Organisation poll found that just 5.7 per cent of women were indulging in cigarettes and sheesha.
Health Ministry Smoking Cessation Programme co-ordinator Dr Maha Mokla told the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication, that one of the reasons for the increase over the past two decades has been a decrease in the social stigma associated with smoking as families started to accept their daughters taking up smoking.
"According to the data we have, the number of female smokers is now 7 per cent," she said.
"We can see that smoking sheesha has increased among women and unfortunately this habit is now accepted in the community - unlike before when it was considered a social stigma," pointed out Dr Mokla.
Another area of concern for the ministry is the number of young people taking up smoking, she added.
No official data is available for the prevalence of smoking among minors in Bahrain, but "several complaints" were received on the ministry's anti-smoking hotline 66399755 last year and health inspectors had to be dispatched to issue warnings.
"It is forbidden to sell tobacco products to minors and they also cannot enter cafes with sheesha," said Dr Mokla.
"Smoking and other tobacco use reduces life span of an individual and further leads to a variety of diseases mainly cardiovascular and cancer," she stated.
Last year, the hotline received 114 complaints and the ministry's inspectors conducted 6,372 visits, which led to 2,533 people being reprimanded for a variety of reasons ranging from illegally smoking in shopping malls, on public transport and in other prohibited areas to importing or selling banned tobacco substances and selling loose cigarettes to minors.
A total of 222 individuals and institutions were referred to the Public Prosecution.
"This year, in January alone we registered 25 complaints and conducted 1,023 visits after which 437 were warned in writing and a total of 21 referred to the Public Prosecution," Dr Mokla added.
In 2009, an anti-smoking law was ratified by His Majesty King Hamad, which banned smoking in indoor public places, including restaurants, cafes, hotels and salons, and on public transport and in private cars where there are children.
It further forbids planting, manufacturing or reprocessing of tobacco in Bahrain as well as importing chewable tobacco-based products and other tobacco-based substances not licensed by the Health Ministry.-TradeArabia News Service