Ban smoking laws are worthless if not enforced..

May 2, 2009 - It is safe to say that smoking is a big part of Egyptian culture. I was taken back the night we arrived to notice people smoking in our hotel lobby and that the rooms were stocked with ashtrays.

After I’d recovered from my first shock of seeing so many Egyptian smokers, I later noticed the cigarette packages outfitted with large, graphic warning labels. The labels here cover about half of the front of the package and consist of photos depicting various consequences of smoking -- a sad-looking man in a hospital bed wearing a respirator, a hospital patient with a tracheotomy drilled into his throat, and a child trying to avoid second hand-smoke around his parents. To me, these warning were just as shocking as they so graphically warned users of the effects of tobacco.

I later found out that in 2007 the Egyptian government passed legislation that extended bans on smoking in public spaces to include schools, government buildings, etc and ban the sale of tobacco products to minors. In spite of the law, it’s very common to see people on the street smoking who appear to be well below the age of 18.

This law also mandated a 10 percent increase in cigarette prices. You would assume the price could deter people from purchasing a pack of smokes but a pack of Egyptian cigarettes only sets you back about 50 cents to a dollar.

Funny thing is, these efforts to deter people from smoking with package warning labels and taxation don’t seem to be working. A study by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistic (CAPMAS)in Egypt found that pictures on cigarette packs has not affected the number of smokers, nor cigarette sales.

Seventy-six million Egyptians smoke and the population of the nation is just above 83 million; that should translate to 92 percent of the population here who smoke.

I think smoking bans and restrictions are great, but at this point I’m convinced that graphic warning labels aren’t going to work. (Egypt - warning pictures on cigarette packs - INEFFECTIVE...) As in Egypt, some of the world countries with the largest smoking populations require warning labels cigarette packages yet smoking prevails as a social norm.

Over the years I’ve periodically heard about possible legislation that would add a visual component to the current warning label on American cigarettes, but I’m not convinced. In the states, outreach campaigns and education may be much more effective reducing smoking rates than intimidating labels.

Egyptians suck down an estimated 50 billion cigarettes a year, which according to the World Bank makes it the largest tobacco consumer in the Middle East and North Africa, accounting for nearly one fourth of total consumption in the region and the 17th-biggest tobacco market in the world.

Relate news briefs: Egypt, CAPMAS Study Graphic Photos on Cigarette Packs - NOT EFFECTIVE..; Egypt - warning pictures on cigarette packs - INEFFECTIVE.. ; Egypt's fledgling anti-tobacco program to place images and warnings on cigarette packs..; Egypt Passes National Anti-Smoking Law...

Reference: Smoking can kill you, but maybe not if you are Egyptian, Submitted by Nikita Rocawich, - Jacksonville, 05/01/2009.

Click on image to enlarge.., kids in Egypt smoking.