THE decision of the New Zealand government to completely ban the scourge of smoking and tobacco products by 2025 is very laudable indeed because it aims to preserve the health of its people while increasing budgets to treat those suffering from serious health issues, especially heart disease and cancer.
I am confident they will succeed in achieving this ambitious goal, considering the scientific thought that has gone into the proposal and the country’s general professional and scientific way of working.
Here, in Bahrain, in spite of the coronavirus pandemic, we must not overlook other issues that cause serious complications, like the prevalence of smoking – among men and women – the spread of sheesha cafes and e-cigarette stores that are mushrooming everywhere.
The Health Ministry and other concerned bodies have a huge responsibility to curb this phenomenon by spreading awareness through social media and other means but it has been seen there is not much effort in this direction.
There is also the role of the family and that of the Education Ministry to create awareness to preserve the health and safety of everyone, particularly students and adolescents.
We do not deny that health authorities have made strenuous and persistent efforts and have enacted laws and legislation to curb this phenomenon. Smoking has been banned in closed places, restaurants, hotels and public transportation but we hope it will be banned in other places.
According to the World Health Organisation, smoking kills eight million people annually, which is nearly half of tobacco users around the world. More than 7m of these deaths result from direct tobacco use, while exposure to second-hand smoke is the cause of the death of approximately 1.2m people.
Most tobacco-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, where they are targeted by intensive marketing by the tobacco industry.
If we are really serious about achieving the goal of Bahrain becoming tobacco-free, then we should develop a clear roadmap and draw up a comprehensive and integrated plan and work teams within a specific time frame.
We will be able to achieve this with the intention, determination and will, and I am confident the legislative and executive authority will not hesitate to provide all support.
The government allocates a huge budget to treat people from smoking-related diseases so developing solutions to reduce smokers will inevitably lead to a lot of savings in the long run.
When the prices of tobacco and its derivatives, as well as aerated drinks, was raised a few years ago, the goal was to reduce their consumption.
This had an effect but other endeavours and efforts such as awareness campaigns must continue and social media must be used effectively to deliver direct messages to promote culture and awareness.
The participation of the private sector, including oil and industrial giants, banks, telecommunications companies, merchants, family enterprises and others, is very important in supporting initiatives that fall under their policy of corporate social responsibility.
Setting up a national campaign in which everyone takes part is the best way to make this initiative successful. The pivotal role played by more than 600 charitable, professional and Islamic societies is also critical.
I hope this proposal is accepted in this blessed month for the good of the country and its people.