600,000 people die each year from passive smoking
The dangers of second-hand smoke to babies, pregnant women and those under 18 are being highlighted to mark World No Tobacco Day today.
Tobacco kills nearly 6 million people every year – 600,000 of them non-smokers exposed to other people’s fumes.
The toll was revealed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to coincide with its annual anti-tobacco campaign.
“We need to act now,” said Dr Nawar Tayara, a paediatrician and paediatric pulmonologist in Dubai Healthcare City.
She believes there should be dedicated smoking zones in public places to protect non-smokers from second-hand fumes.
“We need to increase awareness about second-hand smoke and we need to do this today,” she said. “People have the right not to inhale this smoke because it really is very, very dangerous. Even from second-hand smoking we can have lung cancer and heart disease.”
About 700 million children – almost half the world’s youngsters – are exposed to second-hand smoke, according to WHO. About 90 per cent are exposed to tobacco because their parents smoke in the family home, Dr Tayara said.
Children are at a greater risk from second-hand smoke because they have smaller lungs, a faster breathing rate and a weaker immune system. Inhaling smoke can cause infections of the ear, nose and throat in newborns and increase the risk of sudden-death syndrome and pneumonia.
Passive smoking can cause respiratory problems and increase the risk of cardiac arrest, asthma and even lung cancer. For pregnant women, passive smoking adds to the risk of low-birth weight and premature birth.
“Parents should not have any excuse to smoke near their child,” Dr Tayara said. “If you have children and have to smoke then do so outside of the house – stopping second-hand smoke is really very, very important when they are young.”
Wedad Al Maidoor, head of tobacco control at the Ministry of Health, said everyone had a part to play in raising awareness about the dangers of second-hand smoke.
“We know second-hand smoke is a hazard and can cause people sickness and even death from tobacco fumes,” he said. “Children and women especially have the right to live in a tobacco-free environment. This will come by reinforcing the law and through education.
“Most malls in the UAE enforce a smoke-free policy but we need to ensure all closed public places are free of tobacco.”
WHO and its global partners mark World No Tobacco Day on May 31 each year by highlighting the health risks associated with tobacco use and by advocating effective policies to reduce this.
Health professionals and bodies across the UAE are joining in.
Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death globally and kills one in 10 adults worldwide.
The epidemic is expected to kill more than 8 million people a year until 2030. More than 80 per cent of these preventable deaths will be among people living in low and middle-income countries.
“Do something else apart from smoking,” Dr Tayara said. “Do some exercise, do something healthy. Fill your time with something more interesting than smoking. It increases the chances of dying, so do something today.”
Dr Abdul Razzak Alkaddour, the head of the preventative cardiology and smoking cessation programme at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, said: “The UAE is definitely moving forward with a number of innovative measures to foster a smoke-free environment. “Its approach is enabling a higher number of people to quit smoking, which is a socially devastating activity.”
The theme of today’s World No Tobacco Day is pushing for a ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
Updated: May 31, 2013 04:00 AM