Tobacco kills an alarming 6 million people every year. While 5 million of those deaths are the result of direct consumption of tobacco, more than 600000 are due to non-smokers being exposed to passive smoking. Smoking has become a global epidemic. Youngsters getting caught in this vicious web are ever-increasing. Recently a study showed that 40% of school students in UAE are smokers, despite a country wide ban on selling cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18. The healthcare sector in UAE is proactively working towards freeing the country from this global evil. The laws regarding Shisha Cafes, smoking in public, sale of cigarettes etc. are very detailed and strictly enforced. Shisha Cafes must be situated at a minimum of 150meters away from residential areas, 100 meters away from places of worship and 15 meters away from places of learning and education. They cannot stay open after midnight and entry to anyone under the age of 18 is banned in such cafes. Cigarette cartons will be printed with grim images of sick people, skeletons and black teeth to warn and discourage smokers from this hazardous habit. Every year, on World No Tobacco Day Dubai undertakes new measures to curb smoking like No Tobacco Sale for 24 hours on that day and other nation-wide awareness events and activities. In 2015, UAE hosted 16th World Conference on Tobacco or Health which focussed on regulating the tobacco industry and preventing non-smokers from picking up the habit. Private sector also works hand in hand with the government to overcome this ordeal. Various organizations and hospitals carry out events and activities to help and support the cause. Here are a few Anti-smoking campaigns, government and private hospitals have undertaken;

Smoking Cessation Clinics

Dubai Health Authority (DHA) runs two Smoking Cessation Clinics in the region, one of which is located in Rashid Hospital and the other one in Al Twar Health Center. These clinics work for free for the nationals and for the expats only a nominal fee is charged. They have various programs for quitting including workshops and counselling. Dr HananObaid, head of Acute and Chronic Diseases unit of DHA explains how the clinics work, “the clinic caters to people who want to quit smoking by addressing their individual problems and by giving them medical and psychological support. The clinic reaches out to smokers to help them cope with nicotine withdrawal symptoms which are a factor that often dissuades them from stubbing the habit.”Abu Dhabi has also implemented a similar system. The HAAD has launched a four step anti-smoking outreach program, one step of which is establishing smoking cessation clinics. The residents of Abu Dhabi can now avail treatment at any of the smoking cessation clinics at any of the Ambulatory Healthcare Services (AHS), a SEHA health system facility.

Campaigns by Hospitals

Popular hospitals across the country conduct various anti-smoking campaigns and medical programs all year round. Lifecare Hospital in Baniyas often conducts anti-smoking drives for low income workers of Dubai. NMC Healthcare is another medical group that conducts anti-smoking drives every year. They hold sessions where the members taking part in the even can ask queries to medical experts in the field. Dubai Hypnosis Centre offers what is called Neuro-Linguistic Programing, which is a specific form of hypnosis that can help trigger feel-good chemicals from the brain by using one’s mind instead of cigarettes. Dubai Herbal Treatment Centre has a smoking cessation treatment which consists of acupuncture sessions, detox tea and herbals medications to treat withdrawal symptoms like mood swings, insomnia and headaches. Al Ain Hospital runs a smoking cessation clinic that was launched as a part of its anti-smoking campaign in 2011. The treatment offered at the clinic consists of various therapy programmes customised to address the needs of the patient. Al Ain hospital has also been declared as an anti-smoking zone as a part of its campaign.

Campaign Begins at Home

It has been found from studies that a major chunk of new smokers pick up the habit from school. Adults at home and in the residence complex can take a lot of measures to deal with the situation. Here are four simple steps to follow if you think your kid or his/her friends might be getting into the addiction;Communicate – The first step to finding a solution is to understand what the issue is. Your child must have tried it for fun, in which case you can talk and make him/her aware of the risk it poses once it becomes addictive. Some other reasons why kids begin smoking are peer pressure, stress at home or school and lack of positive attention from home. In any case, talk to your kids and get to the root of the problem.Observe – Try to find out where your kids are buying cigarettes from. The UAE has a ban on selling cigarettes to minors. Chances are they must be getting it from small local groceries within your neighbourhood. You can gather a few other residents from the neighbourhood and talk to the keepers in these groceries about it or warn them against selling cigarettes to kids.Engage – Involve your children in various anti-smoking campaigns and events taking place in the country. Let them participate in workshops, contests and programs held by organizations supporting the cause. This will create awareness in them about how serious the issue is and how they can play their part in helping millions across the world afflicted by the consequences of smoking.Rehabilitate – If you have found out that your child is an active smoker, it is time to help him get rid of the habit and bring him back to his childhood. Rehabilitation does not mean sending them off to centres; it just means restoring them back to life. There are counselling therapies and treatments available all across the country. Make use of it and consistently work on it until you are sure he/she has quit completely.It is important that every individual be aware about the evils of this habit. Residents can make use of the programs launched by the government and various organizations to help their loved ones get over this fatal addiction. Let us all join hands to make this country smoke free.