Figures recently released by the Jordanian government in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) have indicated that the Middle Eastern kingdom of Jordan, has the world’s highest smoking rates. Sadly, other Middle Eastern countries seem to have similar rates.
According to an article on The National, Euromonitor International has found that only a small minority of smokers in the Middle East have embraced e-cigarettes as smoking cessation tools. “We believe a few factors explain why less than two per cent of smokers may have switched to less harmful tobacco products in the region,” said David Janazzo, chief financial officer at the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World.
The enmeshment between Big Tobacco and local governments propogates the problem
“There are also bans or curbs on tobacco harm reduction products and pressure coming from organisations such as the World Health Organisation and The Union to block the use of these products.”
Amongst these factors is believed to be the fact that most governments in the area do not really place much importance on tobacco harm reduction. Another reason is believed to be a strong enmeshment between the tobacco industry and policy makers. “In several of the countries in this region, the tobacco industry is owned fully or in part by the local government, creating financial incentives to continue the sale of cigarettes.”
“There are also bans or curbs on tobacco harm reduction products and pressure coming from organisations such as the World Health Organisation and The Union to block the use of these products,” added Janazzo.
In fact if we look at the alarming situation in Jordan, tobacco companies are allowed to operate with comparatively fewer restrictions, than in countries which boast relatively low smoking rates, such as the UK.
“These companies continue to exercise as much political power as they can in wealthy countries, but they’re more successful in lower-income countries where they face less transparency, can operate more in the dark and overwhelm whatever civic societies exist,” said Rima Nakkash, an associate professor of public health at the American University of Beirut.
Updates in e-cig regulations
Meanwhile, some countries in the region have recently changed regulations to allow the sales of vaping products. Last February, UAE Government consumer watchdog, the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA), confirmed that new regulations will allow the legal sale of e-cigarettes and vaping products.
On the other hand, Saudi Customs have just banned the importation of shisha and vaping products through shipping companies and individuals’ websites, from now on allowing only licensed companies to import the products for commercial purposes.