Officials are looking at the possibility of extending the ban on smoking to more public places, such as beaches Image Credit: Karen Dias, Gulf News

Dubai: In another step towards making the UAE a tobacco smoke-free nation, officials are looking at banning smoking in public places such as beaches, a health ministry official said.

The government was also considering putting a stop to tobacco being grown.

Tobacco farmers would be given time to change their crop and the government would look at compensating them, said Ministry of Health head of the tobacco control committee Dr Wedad Al Maidour.

"There are a few tobacco farmers in Al Ain and Hatta," she told Gulf News.

She was speaking after a series of workshops with ministry officials and the World Health Organisation (WHO), which has been looking at the anti-tobacco draft laws.

"We are looking at between three to five years to make them stop production," she said about UAE tobacco growers.

She said more women were also smoking shisha today which was having an effect on their children's health.

WHO tobacco-free initiative director Douglas Bettcher agreed.

"Women are being targeted by cigarette manufacturers, making smoking look glamorous and attractive," Dr Bettcher warned.

He said one billion of the world's people would die due to smoking in this century alone.

"This is completely unacceptable. The future generation will never forgive us," he said.

Earlier, Minister of Health Dr Hanif Hassan said the UAE was working hard to give the anti-tobacco draft laws some teeth and to meet the national objectives towards improving the nation's health.

A number of officials from the health care sector, the anti-tobacco national committee members and representatives from a number of government departments were attending the two-day workshop.

Draft law

The officials were reportedly examining parts of the draft law such as how tobacco products would be packaged and labelled, their nicotine content, and images and health warnings on packs.

The UAE was also considering doubling the price of cigarettes (presently it is Dh7 per pack).

"Tobacco consumption in the Gulf region has become an economic, social and health burden," the Minister said.

Eastern Mediterranean region director of health protection Haifa Ma'adi agreed the region was dedicated to stamping out smoking.

"There is high political commitment in the UAE to tackle the scourge of smoking," said.

She said smoking posed a huge health risk, particularly as more UAE teenagers aged 13 to 15 were becoming smokers.

WHO is calling for a total ban on tobacco advertising and support programmes to help smokers give up.

"We would like to see the UAE take the lead," she said.

The health organisation was also asking countries to clamp down on smoking in public places to protect people from second-hand smoke, which contains a total of 50 cancer-producing chemicals.

Alarming: Women are targets

One billion people will die of smoking in the 21st century.Women are being targeted by cigarette manufacturers to project glamour.80 per cent of deaths due to smoking are in the developing world.

Are you a smoker? Do you think the UAE should ban smoking outside? Would you quit smoking if such a ban was placed?