Lebanon - some trying to prevent youth from a life of nicotine addiction..

Lebanon - Coat-of_Arms..

June 6, 2010 - Marking its 10-year anniversary, local non-governmental organization the Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI) reiterated the need for a comprehensive ban on smoking in public places.

Background: TFI association's main aims is to prevent the young Lebanese from the first cigarette. The main goal of this NGO (non-government organization) created by the family of Antoine Keyrouz, a lawyer who passed away in June 1999 because of a lung cancer, is to protect the young generation from tobacco devastation. This association, which includes businessmen and women, doctors, lawyers, psychologists, and journalists, has just been rewarded by the WHO for its struggle against smoking in the Middle East.

Tobacco Free Initiative: because the first cigarette is the most dangerous by √Člodie Morel, iloubnan.info, 9/14/2008.
“We are calling for a 100 percent ban on smoking in public,” said Rania Baroud, a former presenter with Future Television, and the vice-president of TFI. She dismissed suggestions to introduce non-smoking areas in bars and restaurants, saying that only a comprehensive ban would protect consumers from the dangers of passive smoking. “We don’t want smoking and non-smoking areas because they are totally ineffective,” she said. “After two minutes of a cigarette being lit, its ultrafine particles are everywhere. [Having designated smoking areas] is like have a section of a swimming pool where people are allowed to urinate.”

TFI’s anniversary comes after World No Tobacco Day on Monday, May 31st and the launch of a media campaign by the Health Ministry urging public support for a smoking ban.

Lebanon’s parliamentary Administration and Justice Committee is currently studying a draft law banning smoking in public, but activists say tobacco industry officials are stalling its adoption. The law seeks a ban on tobacco advertisement, promotion and sponsorship, graphic pictorial warnings on the pack of cigarettes and a comprehensive smoking ban in public.

Around 3,500 Lebanese die every year from tobacco exposure, which causes more deaths than tuberculosis, pneumonia, HIV/AIDS and car accidents combined, the Health Ministry’s National Tobacco Control Program has said. The numbers of smokers here is among the highest in the world: 45 percent of males and 34 percent of females are said to be regular users.

Some 75 percent of children are thought to be subject to second-hand smoke exposure, increasing their chances of suffering from asthma, chronic bronchitis, eye and ear infections, fatal lung and respiratory illnesses and cot death.

Lebanon signed the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2005, and although it was ratified automatically, very little has been done to enforce it. So little has been done, in fact, that Lebanon risks failing to meet the convention’s obligations. It has already missed the deadline for Article 11, which states that within three years of adopting the convention, countries must implement effective health warning labels on tobacco products. Article 8, which obligates Lebanon to “strive to provide universal protection” within five years, has also not been implemented.

Weak regulation has given the tobacco industry in Lebanon a free reign to advertise and sponsor events, targeting mostly young people. This, coupled with almost non-existent taxation, has given Lebanon one of the highest youth smoking rates in the world. “Tobacco companies advertise by suggesting they offer freedom. But really what they want is for you to be addicted until the end of your life,” said Nadine Keyrouz, who founded TFI after her own father, a life-long smoker, died of lung cancer.

“Lebanon is the only country in the Middle East that still allows tobacco advertising and sponsorship,” Baroud said. She called for the introduction of pictorial warnings on the front and back of all tobacco products.

“They have been proven to be effective in encouraging smokers to quit,” she said.

She also said increased taxes on tobacco products would help dissuade youngsters from taking up smoking. “It’s unacceptable and unbelievable that 60 percent of Lebanese youth smoke, compared to only 6 percent in Great Britain,” she said. Lebanon also has the highest rates of women smokers in the world.

“If the current tobacco control policy status quo remains, [we estimate] that 150,000 children and 350,000 adults alive today will die prematurely in Lebanon because of smoking “ or second-hand smoking-related illnesses, Dr. Gregory Connolly of the Harvard School of Public Health said in a recent memo by AUB’s Tobacco Control Research Group (American University of Beirut Tobacco Control Research Group (AUB -TCRG).

References: Ten years on, tobacco initiative still lacking
by Dalila Mahdawi, Daily Star staff, 6/5/2010; Health Ministry launches campaign urging support for smoking ban by Dalila Mahdawi, Daily Star staff, 6/1/2010.

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