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Abu Dhabi: Health authorities are warning against the harmful impact of smoking ahead of World No Tobacco Day on Sunday.

This year’s May 31st celebration aims to protect youth from industry manipulation.

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organisation has also repeatedly warned about the added risks of COVID-19 to smokers.

“The Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) urges smokers to make the right decision and quit,” the authority said in a statement released today (May 30)

Smoking and COVID-19

According to the WHO, smokers are most likely to develop health complications if infected with COVID-19. In addition, the risk of contracting the disease is heightened as the act of smoking involves contact of possible contaminated fingers, cigarettes or smoking contraptions with the lips.

In addition, smoking reduces lung capacity, and can therefore increase the severity of respiratory diseases like COVID-19.

UAE tobacco trends

According to The Tobacco Atlas, which monitors tobacco use trends and hazards around the world, more than 1.3 million adult residents aged 15 years and older are known to use tobacco in the UAE every day, along with 3,000 children. In addition, more than 2,900 people are killed by complications and diseases related to tobacco use.

The UAE is one of the first countries to join the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a treaty that aims to protect people from the adverse impacts of tobacco consumption. The country has developed a national indicator of the smoking rate, with plans to reduce it to 15.7 per cent by 2021. The rate currently stands at between 20 to 30 per cent of adults.

Still, the UAE’s efforts to reduce tobacco use have already helped decrease the rate of adult smokers by 18 per cent since 2010, in accordance with the health survey 2017-2018. A selective tax from 50 to 100 per cent is also in place on tobacco products and their derivatives.

MoHAP initiatives

And on the occasion of World No Tobacco Day, the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) has launched several projects and initiatives to elevate awareness about smoking risks, and to encourage smokers to quit. This includes the establishment of a network of 16 smoking cessation clinics in the primary health care centres, with plans to expand them.

In order to activate the articles of the Tobacco Control Law, the Health Ministry has established effective partnerships with various government sectors. The ministry has also developed a guideline and an integrated training programme through the “Maharti System” to enhance the capabilities and skills of the physicians to provide smoking cessation services, and to standardise the work in accordance with the internationally approved treatment protocols.

A number of social media campaigns are also being conducted to increase awareness about the hazards of smoking, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Perils of e-cigarettes

The MoHAP has also cautioned residents against using e-cigarettes, adding that producers use illegal means to convince people that they are harmless despite contradicting scientific evidence.