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Alarm over surge in tobacco smuggling

Bahrain News
Thu, 10 Mar 2016
By Raji Unnikrishnan

AN alarm has been sounded over tobacco smuggling in Bahrain.

GCC Tobacco Control Committee member Dr Maha Al Kuwari said it was time the country adopted an international protocol designed to curb tobacco trafficking.

She said Saudi Arabia was the only GCC country to adopt the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products. 

“Despite many measures and laws, we still have illegal tobacco products in Bahrain, which are obviously being smuggled into the country,” Dr Al Kuwari, a medical consultant at the National Health Regulatory Authority (NHRA), told the GDN

“These banned products entering Bahrain have to cross borders and this treaty of the World Health Organisation (WHO), which aims at eliminating all forms of illicit trade in tobacco products, will help in co-ordinating among the GCC countries. 

“All the GCC have signed the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), under which this protocol comes, but only Saudi Arabia has adopted it. It is not enough that we are part of the FCTC, more important is signing the treaty that is solely dedicated to eliminate the threat of illegal tobacco products.

“The treaty provides tools to prevent illicit trade in tobacco by securing the supply chain. 

“This includes establishing an international tracking and tracing system by fighting illicit trade through law enforcement measures and ways that support international co-operation.

“The GCC should fight the illicit trade as one union and hence, we need to adopt this protocol at the earliest.” 

Dr Al Kuwari said the GCC Tobacco Control Committee wanted to stamp out all illegal

“The existence of illegal products like e-cigarettes and chewing tobacco, despite a legal ban on them, is a danger to our societies,” he said. 

“Officials have records of many cases where people have been arrested and punished for dealing with these products, yet we find open flouting of the law by way of advertisements for e-cigarettes in Bahrain. 

“These are not safe products as claimed by the producers, but harmful to health and we have patients coming to the tobacco clinic who say that they picked up chewing tobacco in Manama.

“Nicotine content, be it in any quantity, is bad for health and we must do everything to fight this.” 

The issues were discussed this week during the 25th meeting of the GCC Tobacco Control Committee at the Elite Spa, Muharraq. 

Other topics included warning pictures on cigarette packets, while a working group has been commissioned to develop a mechanism to monitor the sale of sheesha and cigarettes. 

The GDN reported earlier this year that close to 50 Instagram accounts promoting e-cigarettes in Bahrain had been referred to the Public Prosecution for flouting a ban on the products. 

People have been urged to report such violations to a public health hotline on 66399755.

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