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Posted On: 10 May 2009 11:35 am
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:09 pm

Tougher anti-smoking campaign bearing fruit

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With the Ministry of Health intensifying its campaign against smoking, more people have been punished for violating the provisions of Law No 20 of 2002, which bans smoking in public places and regulates the import and sale of tobacco and its derivatives. In January this year alone, fines amounting to QR35, 500 were imposed for various types of violations by the ministry’s inspectors, many of whom have been given judicial powers. This represents a sharp increase from 2008, when fines to the tune of QR196,700 were imposed during the whole year. Dr Ali Arab Ataullah of the anti-smoking unit at the ministry said the multi-faceted campaign against smoking had started delivering results. The number of smokers in the country is estimated to be about 37 percent of the total population, including nationals and expatriates. “There is an increased awareness about the hazards of smoking and there are indications the habit is declining in the country,” Ataullah told The Peninsula. He said the strict measures being adopted by the ministry to implement the anti-smoking law had produced positive results. The ministry’s campaign includes awareness programmes, preventive measures, training of people in combating smoking and implementation of the law. “A main target of the campaign is school students, because most people pick up the habit of smoking during their teens. The ministry has conducted various programmes focussing on preparatory and secondary school students and we will intensify these efforts,” said Ataullah. A survey of preparatory and secondary school students in Qatar in 2004 had found that 25.9 percent of the male students and 14.9 percent of the female students who took part in the survey were smokers. The survey covered a total of 3,240 students from 111 classes. Smoking had become a habit for 15.1 percent of the male students, while only 4.5 percent of the female students had made it a habit. Among the males, 35.8 percent smoked only once, while among the females this figure was 17.5 percent. Of those surveyed, 63.5 percent said they wanted to quit smoking. But 62.5 percent said they had tried to quit before. Interestingly, 14.9 percent of the females and 12 percent of the males believed that smoking made a person more attractive. Of those surveyed, 72.7 percent said they had not faced any difficulty in buying cigarettes from a shop despite their young age. Ataullah said the tobacco prevention clinic at the Hamad Medical Corporation had been providing excellent services in treating people who were addicted to smoking. On an average, 700 people use the services of the clinic every year and 38 percent of them are able to quit smoking successfully.