World No Tobacco Day: 500 retailers in Dubai stop sale of tobacco for 24 hours
Anwar Ajaz (name changed), a 27-year-old Dubai resident, has tried every “tried and tested method” to kick the smoking habit. Several nicotine patches and anti-tobacco chewing gums later, Ajaz has concluded that he has just not reached a point where he wants to give up smoking completely.
“It’s like being in a self-damaging relationship with a cigarette,” laughed Ajaz.
It is not really a laughing matter, though. Cigarette smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer and tobacco smoke is a mix of more than 4,000 chemicals, of which 250 are toxic and at least 50 others are known to cause cancer.
“People who quit smoking have a lower risk of lung cancer, but their risk is higher than the risk of people who never smoked. However, it is important to note that quitting tobacco at any age can lower the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases,” said Dr Sami Mana, community medicine specialist at the Dubai Health Authority (DHA).
On the occasion of the World No Tobacco Day, about 500 retailers across Dubai stopped the sale of tobacco for 24 hours. The initiative that was spearheaded by the Dubai Municipality garnered a lot of public interest and, most importantly, raised awareness about the ill effects of smoking.
Ahmad Saeed Al Naqaz, public safety officer and campaign coordinator, told Khaleej Times: “I think the campaign is going really well. The whole point of the campaign is to raise awareness and I think we’ve successfully done that. Most retail outlets have stopped the sale of tobacco and ... DM officials are distributing brochures to people in these places as well.”
He said targeting major landmarks like Dubai Aquarium, The Dubai Mall, Vox Cinemas and Ski Dubai at the Mall of the Emirates on a weekend helped because the footfall was higher.
“We have no numbers so far of the total number of cigarette packets that were not sold. From what I notice, people are genuinely interested ... Retail outlets did have some people coming and asking for cigarettes, but they were turned down.”
Several retail chains have taken a step forward and have completely stopped the sale of cigarettes at their outlets.
The 500 shops that stopped selling cigarettes and tobacco products from 12am Saturday to 12am Sunday belong to the major retail groups in Dubai — Emarat, Enoc and Eppco petrol stations, Hyper Panda, Al Safeer, News Center, Kadoli, Spinney’s, Waitrose, Carrefour, Zoom, Choithram, LuLu, Al Maya, Family, West Zone, J-Mart, Fresh Plus, Talal, Lifco, KM Trading, Baqer Mohebi, Shaklan, Sunrise, Galaxy, Wow Pinoy, Masco, Grand Mart, Megamart, Tabeer, City Corner, Thomson, Wafa Al Madina, Mars, EMart and Majelan Al Madina.
Healthy ways to quit
The DHA, in its weekly Twitter clinic, advocated the importance of smoking cessation on May 29.
In the session, smoking cessation specialists disseminated vital information with an aim to educate the community about the ill-effects of smoking and provide information about the DHA’s various smoking cessation programs. Dr Manal Taryam, CEO of Primary Healthcare Centre, said: “DHA is keen on curbing the menace of tobacco consumption in its community and therefore, in addition to regular awareness campaigns, we have dedicated smoking cessation clinics. This is in line with the Tobacco Free Dubai Project which was implemented in 2009 and the Dubai Health Strategy 2013-2025. Since the project was implemented in 2009, more than 30,000 people have benefited from the smoking cessation campaigns which the DHA has conducted across universities, schools, private and public sectors.”