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Smoking caused 13,544 deaths so far this year.

Byline: P.K. Abdul Ghafour

JEDDAH: Cigarette smoking was the main reason behind the death of 3.38 million people worldwide, including 13,544 in Saudi Arabia this year, according to statistics published by the Saudi Charitable Society to Combat Smoking on its website.

The publication of the alarming statistics coincides with a major electronic campaign launched by Arab Volunteering World on its website. The campaign has been supported by the Saudi charity.

"Cigarette smoking is expected to kill 500 million people by 2030," said Adel bin Saad Al-Khofi, supervisor of the campaign, quoting a joint report issued by the World Health Organization and World Bank in August 2000.

"About 70 percent of these deaths are expected in the Arab world as a result of direct or passive smoking that affects wives, children and friends of a smoker," Al-Khofi said.

He said the charitable society decided to hold the campaign in cooperation with Arab Volunteering World to create awareness among the public on the danger of smoking in order to help them quit the unhealthy habit during the fasting month of Ramadan.

"The campaign targets 10 million smokers in the Arab world," Al-Khofi said. "The holy month of Ramadan is a golden opportunity for smokers to quit the habit. Let us take the decision now to stop smoking once and for all," he said.

The campaign includes display of awareness programs on the website and counseling by experts on how to quit smoking, Al-Khofi said, adding that about 250 famous Arab websites would take part in the event. A variety of field activities will also be conducted during the campaigning period.

The charitable society's Makkah office has already launched a similar campaign among the faithful, who throng the holy city during Ramadan, to make it a smoke-free city.

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. "It's sad to see people smoking around the Grand Mosque. Smoking is hazardous to the smokers and to the city's environment, said Dr. Sameer Al-Sabban, executive director of the Anti-Smoking Campaign in Makkah.

Dr. Muhammad Al-Baddah, supervisor of the anti-smoking program at the Health Ministry, said cigarette smoking in the Kingdom was growing at alarming proportions. He said the value of cigarette imports in the country grew to SR1.7 billion in 2005. He estimated the total economic losses caused by smoking at SR25 billion in five years from 2005 to 2010. The majority of Saudi smokers who took part in a recent survey said they started practicing the unhealthy habit as a result of the influence of friends. Some participants (8.4 percent) said it was the family atmosphere that made them smokers while 5.9 percent blamed work pressure for smoking. The survey showed that the majority of smokers in the Kingdom are unmarried young men and women with one-third of them being students.

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Date:Sep 8, 2008
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