Anti-smoking campaign kicks off in Jeddah

April 24, 2008

A monthlong anti-smoking campaign kicked off yesterday in Jeddah, the Arab News reported today.

The campaign features speeches on the harmful effects of smoking and the distribution of pamphlets and cassettes. It also includes a three-kilometer walk on the Jeddah Corniche with the participation of Governor of Makkah Province Prince Khalid Al-Faisal and Saudi singer Mohammed Abdu. Thousands are expected to attend the walk, which will be telecast by eight satellite channels.

Smoking is widespread among men and women in the Kingdom. According to one report, six million people in Saudi Arabia smoke around 15 billion cigarettes each year at a cost of $1.3 billion.  A single Saudi smokes 2,130 cigarettes in a year. Nearly 23,000 people die in Saudi Arabia each year as a result of smoking-related diseases.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Badah, supervisor of the Anti-Smoking Program at the Ministry of Health, estimated the number of women smokers in Saudi Arabia at 600,000.

A study of 1,050 college students in Jeddah and Riyadh last year revealed that smoking, especially waterpipe smoking, is fairly widespread among students from rich families. These findings support another study performed in Riyadh, which showed that 44 percent of male medical students interviewed smoked waterpipes and 32.3 percent smoked cigarettes.

More than 90 percent of the students were aware of the link between smoking and heart diseases, but only 75 percent knew that smoking can also cause strokes.

Dr. Amer Radwi, a consultant oncologist at the Princess Noura Oncology Center at Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz Medical City, has called for more awareness campaigns to reduce the spread of smoking, especially among young men and women. “We should target students at schools and universities as the majority pick up the habit before the age of 20,” he said, as quoted in the Arab News.

Dr. Radwi urged the Saudi government to enforce regulations banning smoking in public places, and called on parents to avoid smoking at home to avoid exposing children to second hand smoke.