Mohammed Rasooldeen I Arab News
RIYADH: Coinciding with the beginning of Ramadan, the Kingdom has launched an intensive anti-smoking campaign in the holy city of Makkah. Worshippers are being urged to make the holy city smoke-free.
“More than 100 health officials and a large contingent of scouts have taken positions around the Grand Mosque in Makkah to raise awareness about the negative effects of smoking,” Dr. Sameer Al-Sabban, executive director of the Anti-Smoking Campaign in Makkah, told Arab News yesterday.
“We have laun-ched this campaign at a time when thousands of local and foreign pilgrims are gathering at the Grand Mosque so that our message can reach the four corners of the globe,” he said.
“It’s a pity that people smoke around the Grand Mosque. Smoking is hazardous to the smokers and to the city’s environment. Officials from the Health Ministry are handing smokers pictures of the Grand Mosque and miswaks (traditional tooth-cleaning sticks),” said Al-Sabban, adding that this is an indirect message to raise awareness that smoking is forbidden in the area.
The health message in the picture is printed in seven foreign languages for the benefit of foreign pilgrims, said Al-Sabban, adding that the officials have been directed to walk around the Grand Mosque’s courtyard from iftar until suhoor.
Al-Sabban said that one million out of the five million people who die globally due to smoking-related diseases are Muslims.
“This is mainly because of lack of knowledge about the harmful effects of smoking,” he said, adding that smokers ruin their own health and contribute to passive smoking.
“We have totally banned the sale of cigarettes in Makkah. This will not only prevent adults from buying cigarettes, children will also not be able to smoke now,” he said.
He added that Ramadan is an ideal opportunity for smokers to quit smoking. “Those who realize the ill-effects of smoking will discontinue the habit for their own sakes,” he said.
Meanwhile, a group of Saudi physicians and psychiatrists are helping with the anti-smoking campaign while a number of well-known websites are assisting with raising awareness. To assist pilgrims, the Health Ministry has opened two clinics in the Khalidia district of Makkah where smokers are being offered free counseling. Around 50 smokers visit the clinic everyday.
The Kingdom joined the anti-tobacco agreement in May 2005. Saudi Arabia ranks fourth among world countries in tobacco imports and consumption, and Saudis smoke more than 15 billion cigarettes, worth $168 million, each year according to figures issued by the Gulf Cooperation Council’s Health Ministers Council.
Source: Arab News