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Bahrain steps up anti-smoking campaign

Manama, May 29, 2012

Graphic warnings on the dangers of smoking will soon be placed on cigarette packets as Bahrain steps up its effort to combat the use of tobacco.

They include horrific images caused by smoking such as the deterioration of the organs and harmful effects on pregnant women, which will also be placed on sheesha tobacco packs.

The new decision will be effective from August 9 and no imports without the image will be allowed into the country. Retailers will also be given six months to get rid of their existing stock, said Health Ministry primary care and public health assistant under-secretary Dr Mariam Al Jalahma.

"This decision has been taken after being ratified on the GCC level recently, during which it was agreed the packs of cigarettes and tobacco for sheesha would have at least one graphic image on them in addition to the statutory warning," Dr Al Jalahma told our sister publication the Gulf Daily News during a Press conference at the ministry yesterday.

"Anti-smoking campaigners are very encouraged with this development since it will have some impact on people not smoking or quitting the habit."

Dr Jalahma said steps are also being taken to ensure Bahrain TV does not air any scenes involving smoking, but if it was important to the storyline then an anti-smoking warning on the screen should appear.

"We have approached the authorities concerned and will follow up with them to try and have this proposal implemented in the near future," she added.

Bahrain has also banned all electronic cigarettes from being imported into the country.

"Earlier, imports were allowed under some conditions but these are now banned," said Dr Al Jalahma. "We are co-ordinating with customs authorities to impound any such cigarettes on arrival at Bahrain entry points."

Meanwhile, the Bahrain Anti-Smoking Society would have the authority to regulate those violating the anti-smoking law, which prohibits smoking in public places, including restaurants, malls, public gardens and enclosed spaces.

Society chairman Dr Kadhem Al Halwachi said 170 smokers wanting to kick the habit had checked in at Bahrain's only anti-smoking clinic at the Hoora Health Centre from January to March this year.

"Among them were 90 new patients while the others were returning patients," he added.

Dr Al Halwachi said the quitting rate in Bahrain was around 27 per cent, which was one of the highest in the world. "Even an 18 per cent quitting rate is considered high internationally," he said.

GCC Anti-Smoking Committee member Dr Maha Al Muqla said they planned to host a series of activities in the next few months to highlight the dangers of smoking.

"This will also involve educating people about the laws that govern smoking in Bahrain," she said.

The committee was also behind enforcing anti-smoking legislation, regulating sheesha smoking nationwide, promoting the dangers of smoking, organising year-round media campaigns, controlling tobacco imports, increasing taxes and providing tobacco de-intoxication treatment for addicts.

Dr Al Muqla said despite progress in combating tobacco use, it was still one of the biggest contributors to the epidemic of non-communicable diseases, including heart attack, stroke, cancer and emphysema.

Six million people die annually from tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke, which amounts to a death every six seconds. – TradeArabia News Service

Tags: Smoking | Bahrain | warning | Tobacco | Sheesha | Health Ministry |

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