First Published: 2017-06-18

Jordan embarks on aggressive anti-smoking campaign
Almost 50% of under 18 and 29% of the adult population in Jordan are smokers.
Middle East Online

By Roufan Nahhas - AMMAN

Men smoke traditional water pipes at an outdoor cafe in Amman

Smoking has been linked to thousands of deaths in Jordan every year, statis­tics from the Directorate of Awareness and Health Edu­cation at the Ministry of Health, re­leased to coincide with the launch of a nationwide anti-smoking cam­paign, state.

The aggressive campaign ban­ning smoking in public places mainly targets young Jordanians with a special focus on school and university students, almost 50% of whom are smokers, in a country where 29% of the adult popula­tion smokes. It is promoted with support from the World Health Or­ganisation (WHO) and civil society organisations.

“Definitely, we need a huge cam­paign to deter young people from smoking as this phenomenon is be­coming a true disease affecting the health of the youth, as young as 14 if not younger, and those around them,” said Dr Saliba Emseeh, a general practitioner.

“It breaks my heart when I see kids as young as 9 or 10 smoking cigarettes and youth from both sexes sitting at a café enjoying a sh­isha without realising the damage it causes to their health.”

Ministry of Health statistics, re­leased in conjunction with World No Tobacco Day, indicate that 11.4% of young people 13-15 years old smoke cigarettes and 26.7% smoke shisha. Overall, 9.3% of all Jorda­nians smoke shisha. The ministry said that smoking is blamed for the death of one of every eight Jordani­ans.

Emseeh said the anti-smoking campaign would not stop young people from smoking in public places even though the ministry had appointed 566 officers to over­see the implementation of the new­ly amended Public Health Law.

The law, which prohibits smok­ing in public and closed places, car­ries penalties up to three months in prison and a maximum fine of $280. Selling tobacco to people younger than 18 and allowing smokers to use public facilities could be pun­ished by up to nine months in pris­on and fines ranging $1,400-$4,220.

The amendments, introduced in line with Jordan’s National Tobacco Control Strategy 2016-18, constitut­ed a pivotal shift in Jordan’s efforts to curb smoking. It is supported by WHO and King Hussein Cancer Foundation Centre.

WHO projected the tobacco con­sumption rate among Jordanians would reach 50% by 2025. Globally, tobacco use will cause nearly 6 mil­lion deaths per year.

Salem (not his real name), 14, comes from a family of smokers and he blames his parents for his addiction which he says makes him “look cool.”

“I am already a smoker at home since my parents smoke a lot so it is a normal thing that I try it and I like it,” he said. “Some of my friends smoke, too, and at school we sneak out for a cigarette and it is some kind of bonding among friends. I find it very helpful when I need to relax.”

“I am sure that smoking hurts your body but what to do now that I am hooked on it and maybe, and that is a big maybe, I will stop when I grow older,” he added.

The ministry said second-hand smoke affects 62% of children aged 13-15 years.

“Smokers still believe that they cannot hurt people around them and this is a problem,” said Samer Attiyah. “Both my wife and I are smokers but we smoke outside the house. We tried several times to stop without success. I think we are too old to stop now.”

The Association Tobacco Free Jordan, a group of Jordanian citi­zens concerned about the risks of second-hand smoking and tobacco addiction, said second-hand smoke is a cause of premature birth and serious cardiovascular and respira­tory diseases, including coronary heart disease and lung cancer.

Women in Jordan are hooked more on smoking shisha, including taking their own shisha with them everywhere they go.

“I carry my little shisha when I visit my friends and we have our shisha session. The shisha is a good way to enjoy a gathering more than cigarettes and it even smells better. I don’t think there is a problem with enjoying a shisha twice a week,” said Lubna Abeddayem, 28.

“Of course, there are many fe­males who smoke publicly and oth­ers secretly due to society issues. Who can forget an incident last year when a Jordanian husband di­vorced his wife because she did not want to quit shisha? I still think it is a personal choice whether to smoke or not.”

Jordan’s Anti-Smoking Society said Jordanians spend around $650 million a year on cigarettes.

The Jordanian government this year raised the tax on cigarettes by $0.64 to $1.70, a move hailed by anti-tobacco activists but scorned by smokers.

Roufan Nahhas, based in Jordan, has been covering cultural issues in Jordan for more than two decades.

This article was originally published in The Arab Weekly.

 

Iran airs "confessions" of researcher facing death for spying

Mayor of Libya's Misrata assassinated

Macron sees war on IS in Syria will be won in February

Assad blasts US-backed Kurdish fighters

Christmas in Jordan dimmed by Jerusalem crisis

Protesters torch political party offices in Iraqi Kurdistan

Turkey prosecutor seeks release of German reporter

Kuwait likely to face political uncertainty

Lebanon arrests suspected killer of British embassy worker

Israel targets Hamas site in Gaza

Turkey slams Austria ‘discrimination’

Iran's schools suffocate in smog

Tunisia elections delayed

Istanbul summit strong on the rhetoric, weak on concrete steps

Israeli air traffic halted due to strikes

Two Danes stabbed by man shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ in Gabon

Morocco’s Islamists elect new leader, walking away from predecessor’s populism

UN considers rejecting Trump Jerusalem decision

Palestinians call for protests against Pence Jerusalem visit

Palestinian billionaire detained in Saudi Arabia

Egypt opens Rafah crossing for four days

Turkey court releases 7 suspects in New Year attack trial

Palestinian activist killed in Gaza protests

Foreign fighters a worry as IS struggles to survive

Over half Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in 'extreme poverty'

Palestinians killed in continuing protests over Jerusalem occupation

Bourita: Extraordinary meeting between ECOWAS, Morocco to be held beginning of 2018

Saudi-led air strikes, clashes as Yemen forces battle rebels

Sahel force funding shows terrorism fight is Saudi 'priority'

UN 'appalled' at mass execution of jihadists in Iraq

Iraq's Sistani says Hashed should be under government control

Middle-class Egypt adapts as costs soar

Somalia's budget meets IMF terms

Israel PM questioned in graft probe

US says Iran supplied ballistic missile to Yemen rebels

Lebanon approves bid for oil, gas exploration

US to present 'irrefutable evidence' of Iran violations

Istanbul 'to remove Gulen links' from street names

Iraq hangs 38 jihadists

Pence to visit Middle East despite controversy

Hamas chief calls for continued Jerusalem protests

EU to repatriate 15,000 migrants from Libya in two months

Syria Kurds fear US ally will desert them after IS defeat

Israeli drugmaker Teva to cut 14,000 jobs over two years

Turkey rescues 51 migrants stranded on rocks