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Doctors help Sidon's residents quit smoking.

Summary: A few meters away from the dozens of cafes scattered along the seaside boulevard near the old city of Sidon, doctors set up a tent to treat smokers and guide them in overcoming their addiction to nicotine.

SIDON, Lebanon: A few meters away from the dozens of cafes scattered along the seaside boulevard near the old city of Sidon, doctors set up a tent to treat smokers and guide them in overcoming their addiction to nicotine.

The Islamic Welfare Association (ISWA) in collaboration with local organizations and with the support of the Health Ministry and the World Health Organization set aside Saturday to raise public awareness on the dangers of smoking.

Volunteers set up checkpoints on all the city's main roundabouts and offered passersby over a 1,000 Ramadan gifts containing dates, miswak (a teeth cleaning twig) and brochures highlighting the dangers of smoking.

This week Parliament passed a law banning smoking in all indoor public places as well as all forms of tobacco advertising, including sponsorship of concerts and other events. The legislation also requires larger pictorial warnings on cigarette packs.

ISWA and other supporting organizations that launched an anti-smoking project in 2008 sent a letter of thanks to Parliament for endorsing the tobacco control law.

ISWA also announced the start of preparations for a competition that will take place in coordination with the Sidon school network and will be centered on the dangers of smoking and addiction to drugs.

After iftar Saturday, around 100 volunteers spread out along the seaside boulevard, touring the cafes where hundreds of customers were having a cigarette or smoking nargileh.

The volunteers presented these cafe patrons with Ramadan gifts and advised them to quit.

"We need to speak to the people in cafes and the most important things is not to give up or back down," activist Fadi Renno said.

Dozens of smokers headed Saturday night to the "treatment tent," where five doctors volunteered their time to offer medical advice and inform them of the best method to overcome their nicotine addictions.

"We are five doctors who are working today at a treatment tent where we carry out tests to discover carbon percentages in the body and offer treatment such as the nicotine gum," Dr. Mohammad Sayyad said.

Sayyad praised the tobacco control law recently endorsed by Parliament and said that it greatly facilitated their struggle against smoking.

As for the decision to set up the tent near the cafes, he said, "We chose to carry out this activity near the cafes to clarify to smokers that we are only interested in their health and that their smoking is harming us at the same time."

Sleiman, 24, a smoker who became a nicotine addict during the July 2006 war, said he was 18 years old when he started smoking nargileh. "I want to quit, and I've tried to, but all my attempts were in vain. Maybe this time, I will be successful."

"The test I took showed a frighteningly high percentage of carbon and so I need to make a decision to quit smoking before it's too late," continued Sleiman, who only gave his first name.

Mahmoud Abu Leila, who has been smoking for eight years, said he was taking the test because smoking tired him out and that he needed to quit because, according to the test, his carbon percentage was very high.

"I tried during Ramadan to quit and it worked while I was fasting, but I failed after the iftar every sunset when I smoked a lot. I explained this to the doctors and I will start using the nicotine gum so that I might overcome this affliction," Abu Leila said.

Copyright 2011, The Daily Star. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Geographic Code:7LEBA
Date:Aug 22, 2011
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