Lebanon - a smokers paradise..

June 9, 2009 - According to a WHO 2005 survey 60 percent of youths in Lebanon aged between 13 and 15 smoke cigarettes, narghile (hookah, water pipe, sheesha, shisha) or cigars, the highest number in the region. Overall, an estimated 42 percent of males and 30 percent of females smoke in Lebanon, a country of 4.5 million inhabitants, health experts say. Lebanon has signed and ratified the FCTC.

The anti-smoking lobby is barely a blip on the radar and the government cares little about the issue. So the price of Cuban Havanas is among the world's cheapest, about cigarettes are free of punitive pricing and health warnings are barely visible on the side of packs -- far from the bold warnings and pictures the World Health Organisation (WHO) is promoting on "World No Tobacco Day" on Sunday, May 31st.

Even teenagers can afford the average one dollar per pack, compared to an average seven dollars (five euros) in France or nearly nine dollars in Britain.

George Saade, a cardiologist and head of the tobacco control unit at the ministry of health: Tobacco companies are very powerful in Lebanon and they are involved in many things that would raise concerns of conflict of interest elsewhere. They sponsor
concerts, television shows and sports events where free cigarettes are sometimes distributed. You even see them at ski resorts. Where there are youths, there are tobacco companies."

An estimated 3,500 people die annually from illnesses related to smoking, they said.
"In the last five years we have seen a 17-percent increase in cardio-vascular disease while the United States saw a 17-percent drop for the same period," Saade said.

The area manager for Philip Morris, the largest importer of cigarettes in Lebanon, rejected the accusations. British American Tobacco, the second largest importer of cigarettes in the country.

Reference: No butts about it, Lebanon's a smoker's paradise.. Health professionals say number of smokers in Lebanon among highest in Middle East by Jocelyne Zablit - BEIRUT, Middle East Online, 5/31/2009.

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