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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Building a tobacco-resistant generation

MoH announces more deterrents to keep that smoke away, coming

BY PMA RASHEED
The Gulf Today, 13 Jan 2010

The UAE authorities will soon be slapped with another volley of smoking discouragements, which include making the habit expensive and piling on an additional financial burden on smokers.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) is working on plans to increase the price of all kinds of tobacco products and by-products, in coordination with the finance ministry.
Besides, officials said that provisions of the federal law on the age restrictions for sale of tobacco products will also be revised by the MoH, from the current age limit of 18 to 20 years.
The MoH chief said that the new federal anti-tobacco law has granted a deadline of two years to cafes, restaurants, bars and other outlets who serve tobacco and shisha located in residential buildings, to shift their operations to far-off non-residential areas.
Explaining the law on Tuesday, Dr Salem Al Darmaky, Acting Director General of the MoH, said the article 7 of federal law has prohibited smoking in all sorts of enclosed public places or socialising spaces such as cafes, restaurants, hotels and indoor bars.
"Such outlets will have to secure a special license from competent health authorities to set up an isolated smoking zone in their premises to serve their smoker customers," he clarified.
Reason for law
Darmaky observed that the National Anti-Tobacco Law has not been designed to destruct related business activities, but to construct a tobacco-resistant generation in the country.
Dr Mahmoud Fikry, CEO for Health Policies at the MoH, said "The law also has clause on supermarkets and other retail outlets to obtain a mandatory separate license to sell tobacco products. The shops will need to shift their tobacco shelves from their cash counter side to less noticed corners."
"Besides, the tobacco products will be barred from selling at grocery stores located near schools and educational institutions," he added.
Fikry hoped the new law will help to reduce the rate of smokers in the country, as well as lessening the second-hand smoking affects.
Clear warnings
Dr Wedad Al-Maidoor, Head of the National Tobacco Control Committee at the MoH and Director of PHC in Dubai Medical District, said that about 50 per cent of the cigarette packets must be covered with statutory health warnings.
"The legislation has norms on specific display of clear health warning messages both verbally and graphically on the packages of all tobacco products. The images should convey the message that smoking kills the user. The cigarette packs presently in the market only carry a warning about lung cancer and heart diseases," she added.
According to Al-Maidoor, the rate of smoking among adults in the UAE is 24 per cent as per the health survey conducted in 2003, and it's the major contributor to deaths caused by cardiovascular diseases in the country. The lung cancer deaths comprise 14 per cent of deaths caused by cancer.
Penalties
Dr Hamdy Abdel Ellah, Legal Counsel at the MoH, said, "Penal actions under the anti-tobacco law has fixed at a hefty fine of Dhs.1 million to be enforced on violators as well as imprisonment of not less than two years."
"Import of tobacco and its by-products without specific standard requirements accredited in the country has been banned under the law that specifies prohibition of all kinds of tobacco advertisements, promotion and sponsorship of such products," he added.
"It's also banned the sales of toys or candies that resemble tobacco products or cigarettes," he pointed out.
Ellah said that, the law also bans smoking in public transport or while driving private vehicles in the presence of children below 12 years. Legal experts are working on drafting the bylaws of the anti-tobacco act.
Dr Darmaky said that a national anti-tobacco committee will be set up under the MoH in a cabinet resolution to ensure enforcement of the law."
He added the committee will be represented by members of ministries of interior, education, environment and economy as well as civic bodies, local health authorities and customs authorities.
The UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan had issued the Federal Anti Tobacco Law No.15/2009, last Wednesday.

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