1 June 2016 – Notwithstanding the current crisis in the country, Ms Elizabeth Hoff, WHO Representative to Syria, has stressed the urgency for controlling tobacco and shisha consumption among the population – especially among youths, women and teenage school children.
Speaking at the World No Tobacco Day 2016 event, Hoff said that tobacco and shisha consumption endangers the health and future life of smokers and people around them. “Many youths, women and school-age children in Syria have taken to shisha smoking believing that it is fashionable and less harmful than cigarettes,” said Hoff. “The truth is that shisha smoking is 20 times more dangerous than cigarette smoking, and shisha users are at risk for some of the same diseases as cigarette smokers such as oral cancer, lung and stomach cancer, cancer of the throat and impaired reproductive capacities.”
Hoff urged the Syrian health authorities at all levels to collaborate with WHO and implement the “plain packaging approach” being canvassed in order to reduce attractiveness and glamour, as is appropriate for a product that kills almost 6 million people annually.
The Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Ahmad Khlefawy, stated that Syria was one of the first countries to sign the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) and endorse a ban on public smoking in an effort to control consumption.
The Deputy Minister emphasized that, the current crisis notwithstanding, the Syrian health authorities will continue to discourage tobacco consumption – including shisha. He added that the current crisis cannot be an excuse for Syrians to endanger their lives. He appreciated WHO for its humanitarian support to the Syrian people across the country since the beginning of the crisis.
The event featured presentation of poems, essays, and cartoon drawing by youths and school children to reflect the harmful effect of tobacco consumption.