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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

WHO’s Dubai Declaration on anti-tobacco policies for GCC countries

BY PMA RASHEED
The Gulf Today, 1 June 2010

THE GGC countries’ fight against tobacco enters yet another level, with comprehensive policies issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO), designed specially for the region.
The WHO’s Mediterranean regional office on Monday has released the “Dubai Declaration” with recommendations on anti-tobacco policies of the GCC countries, on the sidelines of the  World Anti Tobacco Day celeberations organised by the UAE Ministry of Health.
In light of the much anticipated federal anti-tobacco law of the UAE issued in 2009, the WHO has designed six policies to be applied across the region. The policies aim to convert it as a complete tobacco free-zone with continuing efforts until the last cigarette butt is kicked out of the Middle East’s region.
Dr Hussain Gezairy, Eastern Mediterranean Regional Director of the WHO, told the media in Dubai that the policies significantly focus on the integration of a regular surveillance system across the GCC countries. The system will monitor different groups of the people every three or four years about the harmful habit of smoking. “A total ban on the tobacco advertisements and promotions through media or other publicity tools is the second major recommendation for the region. Fifty per cent space on the packages of tobacco products must cover pictorial warnings and messages about the dangers of smoking,” he added.
“In order to reduce the rate of tobacco sale, the WHO has also recommended increase in the retail tax of tobacco products by 70 per cent. A complete ban of smoking in public places across the region is the next policy which even erases designated smoking areas in public places,” explained Dr Gezairy.
According to him, integration of smoking cessation services into primary health care centres is the last one of the WHO anti-smoking policies for the region.
Professor Tawfik Bin Ahmed Khoja, the director general of the GCC Health Ministers’ Council, said, “The policies aim to protect the region’s population from the damages of the deadly habit of tobacco usage, through all possible ways and as determined by the laws passed by each country as mandated by the WHO’s Framework Convention for Tobacco Control Guidelines.”
“The region’s decision-makers should adopt the price increasing policies recommended by the WHO in order to put financial pressures on smokers and reduce the consumption rate,” he urged.
“Also, all the corporate groups and companies in the GGC countries are communicated not to deal with tobacco producers or their promoters,” added Dr Khoja.
Each country should coordinate with the tobacco prevention programmes by forming a national anti-tobacco committee, said Dr Fatima Al Awa, the WHO representative for the region.

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