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World No Tobacco Day is "Critically Important" for the Middle East

posted on 20/05/2007: 2399 views

This year's World No Tobacco Day which falls on May 31st, the annual event sponsored by the World Health Organisation, is critically important for the Middle East region, according to health experts and legislators.

The aim of the day is to increase awareness globally about the dangers of tobacco use, to encourage governments to strictly regulate tobacco products and to get individuals to quit tobacco use.

According to the World Health Organization, every eight seconds a person dies of a smoking-related disease. Deaths from cancer, heart attacks, lung diseases and complications of pregnancy caused by tobacco are set to double.

Tobacco use currently kills five million a year and the death toll will rise to 10 million by the 2020s, unless urgent action is taken now. One of the major areas of focus of the campaign in the Middle East will be sheesha or water-pipe smoking. With the introduction of fruit, honey and herb-flavoured tobacco, sheesha usage is increasing in popularity among young people, women, families, including children, and on college campuses.

In the Middle East, the campaign is being supported by Pfizer, the world's largest pharmaceutical company. As part of its support for World No Tobacco Day, Pfizer is supporting the Ministry of Health's letter-writing and poster campaign, designed to encourage smoking cession.

An additional focus of the regional campaign will be Bidi smoking, which is popular among the Indian national population. Bidis are manufactured in India and exported worldwide. They are made of tobacco rolled in dried tree leaf, and Bidi smoke is as harmful as cigarette smoke.

The different forms of tobacco are all deadly. On World No Tobacco Day, the WHO plans to issue a call to governments to strictly regulate the manufacture, sale and use of all tobacco products - traditional, new, and even future.

The UAE is taking a lead in this area with the announcement that public departments in Dubai will become smoke-free from May 31, which coincides with World No Tobacco Day. Because smoking is chemically addictive, one of the major challenges for encouraging the cessation of smoking in the region is providing support for people to quit smoking.

Representatives of Pfizer are extremely confident that their latest medical breakthrough, Champix (Varenicline), will prove hugely beneficial in this area. When smokers inhale a lit cigarette, nicotine within seconds reaches the brain and binds to a nicotinic receptor which activates the reward pathway in the brain's circuitry. This creates a powerful sense of satisfaction. The initial effects recede quickly and a cycle of craving and withdrawal ensues. Champix is designed to activate the nicotinic receptor to reduce both the severity of the smoker's craving and the withdrawal symptoms from nicotine. As an added benefit, it also blocks the reward of nicotine through antagonism of the receptor. Champix is due to be available in the UAE in 2007. (Emirates News Agency, WAM)


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