Smoking a major danger

By Dr Khalid Al-Saleh

Alarming numbers were revealed during a smoking and addiction workshop, numbers that are highly worrisome for the world and its future. The workshop was organized by the Arab Federation for Drug Prevention last week, where speakers mentioned the dangerous tragedy that is sweeping the world due to smoking.

There is one death every five minutes due to smoking and its resulting illnesses. Death is expected to double from five million in 2020 to 10 million in 2030 due to smoking.

The danger of smoking increased due to male and female youths turning to it, and as experts said, it is the first step to get into the deadly world of drugs. There are Arab countries sponsoring smoking and manufacturing tobacco products due to economic crises, and there are businessmen who are skilled in making people smoke. This is the reason that widened the gap between rich and poor countries as far as the number of tobacco addicts are concerned, while the developed and aware world fights smoking from all corners to protect its youth and save the huge health expense.

Yet we see the opposite taking place in the developing world. Governments own tobacco factories and encourage people to smoke by keeping prices accessible for the youth and increasing points where tobacco is sold, all due to a false belief that this brings income for the state, though numbers clearly show that what the country loses in the form of people and production, in addition to what is spends on illnesses caused by smoking, wipes out all the profits made and goes beyond that to hinder the country’s development, to remain at a standstill on the development path.

Speakers in the workshop expressed vivid pain and big heartbreak towards the failure of awareness in our Arab countries about smoking, as the war between awareness against smoking and its promotion is totally unequal. Those promoting smoking in our countries are usually major businessmen who spend large amounts of money to promote tobacco and are very creative in sidetracking the ban law. Meanwhile, on the other hand, there are NGOs and departments in ministries that operate with budgets that do not match the profits of one hour by tobacco companies.

The scourge of smoking is more dangerous than the coronavirus pandemic and results in 20 percent of cancer cases, and maybe more for heart diseases, as the main reason of death in Kuwait – scary numbers that are met with little interest.

The first correct steps in order to spread awareness against smoking is the decision makers’ conviction of the importance of this war. Secondly, there must be a sharp rise in tobacco taxes, just like in developed countries, and that money should not go to the finance ministry treasury; rather it should go to the health and social affairs ministries in order to give power to awareness programs against smoking.

The money will provide manpower and creativity in studies and strategies that will contribute effectively in the success of campaigns against smoking and will positively reflect on the issues of addiction. The solution is not difficult, and we in Kuwait are going around it since many decades. We hope the calls that came out of that workshop have a positive effect and are different this time.

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