Mobile service to help smokers quit
The Ministry of Health, in cooperation with the World Health Organization and the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will launch a Kingdom-wide survey on adult smokers shortly, according to Ali Alwadey director general of Tobacco Control Program of the ministry.
Alwadey was speaking at an awareness program on the hazards of smoking in a city hotel in Riyadh. The director general said that the study will be conducted among 8,000 families living in different parts of the Kingdom.
“The survey will help the authorities plan out future programs on combating smoking and will cover all age groups and people from all walks of life,” he said. He also said the ministry has got the approval for the survey.
Alwadey said that the study will be carried out over a period of eight months and the report will be available for the decision makers and planners soon after it is presented to the Ministry of Health.
He said the ministry has launched a mobile service to assist smokers to give up the habit. “We have deployed 10 mobile units that will visit all parts of the Kingdom in the next 12 months to assist smokers to unlearn their habit,” he noted. He said the mobile service would visit malls, parks and other public places most frequented by smokers to tell them about the hazards of the habit and how to give it up.
“We will try to forge a stronger cooperation between the public and the private sectors to combat smoking,” Alwadey said, adding that the national committee with 10 ministries as its members to combat smoking would cooperate with the Ministry of Health to fight against smoking in the coming years.
There are 44 clinics across the Kingdom that are dedicated to serving smokers and counseling them about the hazards of smoking.
Alwadey said that the meeting discussed ideas and new experiences in the field of anti-smoking. He stressed the need for coordinated efforts among the participants of the program to achieve its goals. He also said that schools can play a major role in educating children about smoking and its effects n human health.
“We treat smokers as patients since they are addicted to nicotine,” he said, adding that passive smokers are equally affected.
Jamal Abdullah Basahi, head of studies and legislation department of the Tobacco Control Department at the Ministry of Health, told Arab News that 19 percent of Saudis are smokers.
Basahi lamented that a sizable number of the student population is addicted to smoking. Around 14 percent of the students aged between 13 and 15 years are smokers (9 percent males and 5 percent female students).
The official also said that there has been an increase in the number of youth who smoke shisha (hubble-bubble) and some more have got into the habit of chewing tobacco. “We have chalked out special programs to help these addicted youth to get out of these habits at an early stage,” he added.
Considering the gravity of the problem of smoking, the WHO renewed its call for more action, warning that tobacco use could kill a billion people or more over the course of the 21st century “unless urgent action is taken.” Lung cancer kills one person every quarter of an hour.
“If current trends continue, by 2030, tobacco will kill more than 8 million people worldwide each year, with 80 percent of these premature deaths occurring among people living in low- and middle-income countries,” the WHO added.
It pointed out that tobacco remains the biggest cause of preventable deaths worldwide, killing nearly 6 million people and costing hundreds of billions of dollars in economic damage each year.
The Kingdom joined the anti-tobacco agreement in May 2005. Saudi Arabia ranks fourth in the world in tobacco imports and consumption. More than 15 billion cigarettes, worth $168 million, are smoked by Saudis each year, according to the figures of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s Health Ministers Council.