Dubai, UAE: Smokers were surprised to find hundreds of Dubai shops had stopped tobacco sales on Sunday to mark World No Tobacco Day.
Many are unaware May 31 is World No Tobacco Day even though shops have for years supported Dubai Municipality’s annual drive to halt tobacco sales on the day.
“Why don’t you have cigarettes? I didn’t know about this [initiative],” an Indian woman asked the cashier at an Eppco petrol pump in Oud Metha.
The Day is organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) annually to stress the risks of tobacco use and reduce consumption. It says the global tobacco “epidemic” annually kills almost six million people, 10 per cent of whom are non-smokers dying from second-hand smoke.
This year’s WHO theme focuses on combating the illegal tobacco trade, which makes it more affordable for people to smoke by evading taxes.
On Sunday, over 450 Dubai shops, mainly at petrol stations and supermarket chains, suspended tobacco sales. Participation has been increasing since the municipality-led drive was launched in 2010. However, many smaller stand-alone groceries continued business as usual.
World No Tobacco Day-themed posters went up on shop windows and doors to build awareness and staff at some shops wore World No Tobacco-themed shirts. Some residents say singling out one day is not enough to effectively discourage smoking while others believe any awareness drive can help an overall trend towards non-smoking.
“Most smokers only quit when they see it’s really hurting them. I don’t think stopping cigarette sales for a day or having a day has a big impact. People will stock up for the day or find a place that has them [cigarettes]. They know smoking’s bad, but they do it anyway,” said Haider, 35, a Pakistani expat.
Over the weekend, the municipality had also launched a competition to reward those who will kick the habit. The winners of the initiative, held in association with the Dubai Health Authority, will be honoured on the next World No Tobacco Day.
Sunday’s events were officially kicked off by Dubai Municipality Director-General Hussain Lootah with participation from other officials and representatives of companies supporting the initiative.
On the national level, the UAE signed the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2003 and its approval in 2005 was the catalyst for the issue of the 2009 tobacco control law.
The municipality issued a regulation in 2007 on smoking in public places and restaurants and banning the sale of tobacco to those less than 18 years old.
© Gulf NewsJun 2015