Muscat: Health experts have welcomed the recent ban on tobacco advertising in Oman, saying it is a positive move, and added that more can be done to curb the use of tobacco in Oman.
Also, Dr. Partha C, a physician at Badr Al Samaa Hospital, welcomed the move and said the use of tobacco should be reduced to limit the burden of smoking on society.
“It is well known that tobacco is causing a lot of health issues, not only for the smoker, but also for the person nearby. Banning tobacco advertising will raise some awareness with people and help reduce the burden on society of diseases caused by tobacco,” he said.
Dr. Partha C further noted that the ban, itself, is not enough to curb the use of tobacco, but it is a “little step we have to take.”
He added that more actions should be put in place, including forcing cigarette producers to print warnings on packaging reminding the public that smoking is the main cause of lung cancer.
“In India, 80 per cent of the cigarette package should be covered with a statutory warning, so when people see these packages, they will think twice before taking them,” he said.
Dr. Sarathi added that selling tobacco to minors under 18-year-old should be banned. “It should not be available to them,” he said.
Dr. Rajeev C., Specialist of Internal Medicine at Atlas Hospital, said that it is necessary to discourage the use of tobacco.
“It’s a positive step. We have to discourage the use of tobacco because of the cancer it causes. The use of tobacco is rampant here, with people smoking tobacco and sheesha, among all age groups. It is a root cause of diseases and lung cancer,” he said.
He noted that although this is a good step, more can be done through education.
“We have to educate people about the bad effects of tobacco, through various media. Health education should be the backbone of all tobacco control measures,” he added.
Further, Dr. Pradeep Maheshwari, Specialist of Internal Medicine at a private hospital, said that the ban will lead to fewer youths taking up smoking.
“This is a very good move by the Omani government, since this ban on advertising will lead to fewer addictions by young people and the next generation. It will be helpful in reducing the chance of lung cancer. And it will also help to fight other serious problems, such as oral cancer. So many health hazards are caused by tobacco,” he said.
Dr. Maheshwari added that awareness is at least as important as this ban on advertising.
“They should create awareness about the health hazards of smoking tobacco. There are so many health hazards that can be highlighted,” he said.
Additionally, Dr. Jawad Al Lawati, senior consultant and rapporteur of the National Tobacco Control Committee at the Ministry of Health, said that advertising is at the forefront of the tobacco industry’s activities.
“They lure children to this addiction. This ban will limit their capability to recruit new smokers and it will be beneficial to Oman by perhaps reducing the prevalence of smoking, especially among children and women, who they are targeting nowadays. We have been waiting for this for a long time,” he said. Al Lawati added that current smokers will also benefit by banning advertising.
“Those who already smoke will be more encouraged [to stop], because they will not have to see the temptation or advertising in front of them in the media,” he said.
He added that this ban is complementary to the ban already in place on promotional activities for tobacco.
Al Lawati also said the government is looking to pass comprehensive national legislation, still under review, covering all aspects of tobacco control, including sales, taxation and packaging.
“We are waiting for tax increases to come up, since there has not been any increase in taxation in sixteen years,” Al Lawati said.
Meanwhile, tobacco use is becoming an increasing burden for health facilities.
“The waiting list for treatments of heart diseases has been increasing. Our data shows that 40 to 60 per cent of people who have heart attacks are smokers. In the end, the burden is borne by the Ministry of Health,” he said.