Saudi Arabia has launched an intensive anti-smoking campaign in Makkah to coincide with the advent of Ramadan, the Arab News reported today.
“More than 100 health officials and a large contingent of scouts have taken positions around the Grand Mosque in Makkah to raise awareness about the negative effects of smoking,” Dr. Sameer Al-Sabban, executive director of the Anti-Smoking Campaign in Makkah, told the Arab News.
Dr. Al-Sabban added that the timing of the campaign was chosen to reach the thousands of Saudi and foreign pilgrims who come to the Grand Mosque during Ramadan in order to maximize the message.
“It’s a pity that people smoke around the Grand Mosque. Smoking is hazardous to the smokers and to the city’s environment. Officials from the Health Ministry are handing smokers pictures of the Grand Mosque and miswaks (traditional tooth-cleaning sticks),” said Al-Sabban, adding that this is an indirect message to raise awareness that smoking is forbidden in the area.
Al-Sabban said that out of the five million who die each year as a result of smoking-related diseases one million are Muslim, primarily due to a lack of knowledge about the harmful effects of smoking.
Saudi Arabia joined the anti-tobacco agreement in May 2005. Saudi Arabia ranks fourth among world countries in tobacco imports and consumption, and Saudis smoke more than 15 billion cigarettes, worth $168 million, each year, according to figures issued by the Gulf Cooperation Council’s Health Ministers Council.
A similar anti-smoking campaign was launched in Jeddah this past June.