Shedding light on tobacco use and control in Lebanon
Marking World No Tobacco Day, the American University of Beirut (AUB), the Knowledge Hub on Waterpipe Tobacco Smoking (KH-WTS) and the Tobacco Free Initiative of Lebanon (TFI) in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), organized an event to discuss tobacco control measures effectiveness and implementation in Lebanon. The initiative shed light on the alarming situation in the country, voiced a strong objection to any attempt at amending tobacco control Law 174, and signaled an opportunity to increase awareness on tobacco use in Lebanon, highlighting the progress made to date.
The event which took place at the Multipurpose Conference Room – Halim and Aida Academic and Clinical Center (Daniel ACC), AUBMC, witnessed the participation of H.E. Minister of Public Health, Dr. Jamil Jabak, as a keynote speaker. A host of members of the Lebanese Parliament, distinguished guests, AUB and AUBMC leaders and supporters in addition to Dr. Nakkash who served as the Master of the Ceremony attended the event and extended their support to such an initiative.
In 2005, Lebanon signed the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) global treaty, leading to the enactment of Law 174; however, Lebanon has yet to fulfill its commitment to implementing the articles of the Convention. Many challenges have still to be met in order to bring full implementation of the treaty and safeguard the interest of the people from the interests of the tobacco industry and vicious means to promote its lethal products.
In his word, keynote speaker, H.E. Dr. Jamil Jabak, Minister of Public Health, shared his valuable perspectives on tobacco control and reinforcement of Law 174. He gave an overview of the effects of smoking on the person’s health, the health risks associated with it, the benefits of quitting smoking, and the necessary precautions that need to be adopted to combat the impact of smoking in our society. He said, “It is necessary that more effort be exerted to activate previously issued laws pertaining to the use of tobacco. Monitoring and prosecution are of utmost priority in order to secure healthier societies.”
In turn, Dr. Alissar Rady representing Dr. Iman Shankiti, WHO Representative in Lebanon said, “Law 174 for tobacco control is an important breakthrough in public health in Lebanon; it is a landmark towards Universal Health Coverage and an important cornerstone in introducing the culture of prevention and protection in health.”
Dr. Ghazi Zaatari, Director of the WHO FCTC Global Knowledge Hub on Waterpipe Tobacco Smoking at AUBMC said, “The current situation of tobacco use in the country is alarming. The failure to reinforce the implementation of the Tobacco Control Law 174 by the government has sustained the very high levels of smoking and use of tobacco products, particularly among the youth, leading to more diseases and deaths in Lebanon. He added, “Experience gained from fighting the tobacco epidemic to date, which is mostly cigarette-focused, has taught researchers, policymakers, and governments that fast action is needed to curb the waterpipe epidemic.”
“It is unacceptable to have a law to protect citizens which the State is unable to implement, because of a number of officials, including ministers and MPs, refuse to implement it, and even call for its amendment on the grounds that this law negatively affects the interests of restaurant and club owners,” said Dr. Charles Jazra, TFI President. “As TFI, this situation clearly shows that there is a problem at the legal and health levels,” he added.
The event also featured an exhibition of valuable artwork by school children on the subject of tobacco control and Law 174, and the winning projects received The Antoine and Minerva Kairouz Award.
Commenting on this initiative, Pierre Kairouz, TFI Co-Founder said, “The Antoine and Minerva Kairouz Award is a symbol representing efforts to save our children and youth from smoking, which leads to deadly diseases. Our goal is to instill in them a sense of responsibility to work towards a healthy Lebanon.”
The three parties behind this initiative are keen on promoting tobacco control measures in Lebanon, while WTS KH long-term goal is to achieve implementation of effective fiscal and economic policies that reduce the burden of smoking, including WTS, and improve population health throughout the region. Implementing the law will build a better future and a healthier life for the upcoming generations. These goals can only be attained by collaborations with the Ministry of Public Health and by promoting capacity building to generate tobacco and WTS control policies.