x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Smoke-free emirate high on health officials' agenda

The health authority is offering a variety of activities to help people quit smoking.

ABU DHABI // Health officials plan a range of activities to help people stop smoking and prepare for a smoke-free emirate.

Prof Salim Adib, the manager of the public health department at the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (Haad), said it would stop encouraging smokers to quit only when every smoker had "thrown their last cigarette in the garbage".

"We currently have a 'Quit and Win' competition throughout the month of May to motivate smokers to quit immediately," he said.

Smokers can visit one of 16 pharmacies in Abu Dhabi and register. The level of carbon monoxide in their breath will be measured, and smokers must come back four days later to prove that their carbon monoxide levels have gone down by 50 per cent.

The pharmacy will continue monitoring carbon monoxide for each registered participant, who will be entered into a prize draw that include cash and televisions.

"The pharmacies will help the smokers through information leaflets, counselling, nicotine patches or nicotine gum, support - anything they need," Prof Adib said.

Winners will be announced on May 31, the United Nations' World No Tobacco Day.

"Everyone who quits is already a winner without getting an LCD TV or a cash prize. The real prize is quitting, for the smoker, for the smoker's family, for the smoker's children, for everyone around that smoker," Prof Adib said.

Haad will continue launching anti-smoking campaigns, under the slogan 'Abu Dhabi Says No To Smoking', until Ramadan, expected to start on August 1.

"In Ramadan, we will focus our campaign on the direct message that if you are stopping now, because you are fasting, then you can stop forever," Prof Adib said.

According to Haad statistics, 31 per cent of people in Abu Dhabi emirate are smokers. The World Health Organisation's school-based student health survey states that 21 per cent of smokers are younger than 18, and that 80 per cent of students have tried smoking.

Haad's Weqaya screening programme for Emiratis found that 21 per cent of those older than 18 are smokers.

hkhalaf@thenational.ae