Dubai: Doctors and dieticians in the UAE have welcomed the government’s decision to levy an excise tax on tobacco products, energy drinks and carbonated drinks as a definitive step towards curbing the consumption of these products.
Dr Mousa Azhar, Internal Medicine Specialist at Medcare Sharjah, told Gulf News: “Taxing tobacco products will definitely cut back smoking in the UAE. The etiology of smoking is linked to all kinds of cancers. Nicotine is bad for human consumption and there is a very high incidence of lung cancers in the UAE. Besides cancers, smoking causes thickening of the arteries leading to hypertension and cardio-vascular diseases.”
Dr Azhar feels the tax will have a deterrent effect. “Earlier, cigarette packets were priced at Dh2-3, and the consumption was high. Later, prices were raised to Dh10 and one saw a decline in cigarette purchases. With taxes pushing the prices, we see a drop in the number of cigarettes people smoke in a day. This might impact just a fraction of the disease incidence but eventually, with education and preventive screening, it will add up to a bigger impact.”
Dr Anita Das Gupta, clinical dietician and head of the department of Nutrition at Burjeel Hospital Abu Dhabi, felt taxing sugary and fizzy drinks and tobacco products would encourage people to give up unhealthy lifestyles and look towards the consumption of healthy foods.
“All carbonated and energy drinks contain a high level of sugar and caffeine. Anything that is packed and sealed in cans is harmful for human consumption. Some energy drinks also contain artificial sweeteners and preservatives and these are extremely harmful for the human body. Youngsters especially replace their water consumption with this and often gulp down cans of energy drinks after workouts. Caffeine causes a burst in energy levels and then a drop. So to feel as energetic, people opt to have another and this spike and drop pattern induces addiction. Constant consumption of a high level of caffeine can cause hypertension, irregular heart beats, irritability, hyperactivity and even insomnia. People are bound to wean themselves off these drinks once their prices rise and my advice to people is to cut out all these drinks and go for natural drinks such as coconut water, lemonade, etc and eat healthy foods. The government’s move coupled with consistent health education and preventive screening will definitely result in a visible drop in consumption of these foods.”
Tips to quit smoking
Dr Mousa Azhar believes that it is difficult for smokers to wean themselves off smoking by gradually reducing the cigarettes smoked per day. “[Smokers] should give up cigarettes all at once.”
However, for those who approach de-addiction in a piecemeal manner, he advises taking the following steps:
1. Make a list of how many cigarettes you smoke and the duration [of smoking each] and try to increase the duration between two sessions.
2. To prolong non-smoking hours, chew gum or get a nicotine patch or chempex products. The latter need to be taken for a short period under a doctor’s supervision.
3. Move away from the peer group that you normally go out with as peer pressure is an important reason cited by smokers in their inability to give up the habit.
4. Find a useful distraction like playing a sport or any activity that will help you keep away from lighting a cigarette.
5. If nothing works, enrol in a smoke cessation clinic.