Traders Offer Bribe to Stop Anti-Smoking Campaign

Arab News
24 April 2008

Tobacco traders in the Kingdom offered a bribe of SR4 million to organizers of a campaign titled “Family Without Smoking ... For Protection from Cancer” to stop it, said Fahd Al-Suleimani, president of Iman Charitable Society for the Care of Cancer Patients.

“They also offered a bribe of SR2 million if we remove the words ‘For Protection from Cancer’ from the campaign slogan,” Al-Watan Arabic daily quoted Al-Suleimani as saying at a press conference held to announce the campaign.

He said the monthlong campaign, which began yesterday, includes a three-kilometer walk on the Jeddah Corniche on Wednesday with the participation of Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal and Saudi singer Muhammad Abdu.

“Eight satellite channels will telecast the event, which is expected be attended by more than 8,000 people, including businessmen, government officials, university students and schoolchildren,” Al-Suleimani said.

Spelling out other activities of the campaign, Al-Suleimani said it would include speeches on the harmful effects of smoking and distribution of more than one million pamphlets and cassettes. “We’ll also distribute 50,000 cassettes highlighting the suffering of cancer patients,” he added.

Al-Suleimani said the Iman Charitable Society would organize a conference in October in association with an American hospital as part of the activities of the World Day for Combating Breast Cancer. International experts and researchers will take part in the conference.

Smoking is rampant among Saudi men and women.

According to one report, six million people in the Kingdom smoke around 15 billion cigarettes each year, reducing a total of SR5 billion ($1.3 billion) to ashes. A single Saudi smokes 2,130 cigarettes a year. Nearly 23,000 people die in the Kingdom each year as a result of smoking-related diseases.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Badah, supervisor of the Anti-Smoking Program at the Health Ministry, estimated the number of women smokers in the Kingdom at 600,000.

A study covering 1,050 students in Jeddah and Riyadh last year revealed that smoking, especially water-pipe smoking, is fairly widespread among students from rich families.

The study focused on college students aged between 18 and 26.

The findings support another study conducted in Riyadh, which showed that 44 percent of male medical students interviewed in the capital smoked sheesha and 32.3 percent smoked cigarettes.

More than 90 percent of the students were aware of the link between smoking and heart diseases, yet only 75 percent were conscious of the fact that smoking is also responsible for strokes.

Dr. Amer Radwi, consultant oncologist at the Princess Noura Oncology Center located at the King Abdul Aziz Medical City in Jeddah, has called for more awareness campaigns to reduce the spread of smoking, especially among young men and women. “We should target students at schools and universities as the majority pick up the habit before the age of 20,” Radwi said.

He also urged the government to enforce regulations to ban smoking in public places.

“Secondary smoking is equally dangerous and deadly. Parents should not smoke inside their homes to protect their children and other family members from the hazardous effects of smoking,” he said.

Studies have proved that secondary smoking each year causes thousands of deaths from lung cancer and heart diseases.

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