Tuesday, April 16, 2024 | Shawwal 6, 1445 H
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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

For a smoke-free nation

Notwithstanding the fact that Oman has made significant progress in implementing tobacco control measures, there are still gaps that need to be addressed
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Smoking isn’t just suicide; it’s murder! Smoking causes premature aging! Second-hand smoke is first-hand death! Smoking kills! So go many of the emotionally evocative anti-smoking advertisements on television, in newspapers, on tobacco company websites, on cigarette product packaging etc.


These so-called ads are mandated by lawmakers as part of their efforts to promote smoking cessation. But unfortunately, some ads are simply ineffective, while others actually make the youth more light up. Fortunately, some hold promise for quitting efforts and are successful!


The fact is that there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco. Its consumption, in any form, is a major public epidemic that has devastating health effects on individuals and families and economic impacts at international, national, and regional levels.


However, the good news this year is that smokers around the world are quitting—men more than women—and at least one-third of adolescents!


According to a WHO report prepared, based on surveys conducted by 182 nations and the EU among people above the age of 15 between 1990 and 2022, tobacco use across the world has tumbled drastically since 2000 and is on course to continue dropping until at least 2030.


Trends in 2022 showed that roughly one in five adults worldwide uses tobacco, compared to one in three in the year 2000.


The UN health body, however, warned that tobacco-related deaths were expected to remain high for years to come and that the world is set to miss its goal of a 30 per cent drop in tobacco use between 2010 and 2025.


Currently, the WHO South-East Asian Region has the highest percentage of population using tobacco at 26.5 per cent with the European Region behind at 25.3 per cent. The report shows that by 2030, the WHO European Region is projected to have the highest rates globally, with a prevalence of just over 23 per cent.


Though the rate of smoking is low in the Sultanate of Oman compared to other countries in the region, Oman is among six countries that figure in the report with a rising rate of tobacco use since 2010. Other countries are the Republic of Congo, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, and Moldova.


According to the report, the rate of smoking in Oman stood at 8.2 per cent in 2022. This figure is the second lowest in the Gulf countries after the United Arab Emirates, where it stood at 7.4 per cent.


The prevalence of tobacco consumption in Oman has increased since 2010, raising concerns about its short- and long-term health consequences. Data from Macrotrends, a premier research platform, shows that Oman’s smoking rate for 2015 was 7.80 per cent, a 0.1 per cent increase from 2010.


In 2019, the smoking rate stood at 7.90 per which was a zero per cent increase from 2018. The estimated prevalence of tobacco smoking in 2020 was 8 per cent with male prevalence being significantly higher than female prevalence.


The increase in tobacco prevalence may have resulted from the scant enforcement of the best practices approach to tobacco control under the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).


Oman became a party to the FCTC in June 2005, an international treaty that sets out numerous obligations aimed at reducing the global burden of tobacco use and aims to reduce the burden of tobacco consumption among populations. Although Oman’s national health goal for 2040 is to create a healthy society free of health risks and hazards, evidence on incorporating tobacco control measures into national health strategies or other national strategies is limited.


Notwithstanding the fact that Oman has made significant progress in implementing different tobacco control measures, there are still gaps that need to be addressed to achieve a best practice approach for different FCTC measures. Historically, the only tobacco tax in Oman was an import duty. However, a Royal Decree issued in March 2019 introduced an ad valorem excise tax of 100 per cent on tobacco products.


No doubt, Oman has the potential to become a tobacco-free nation by 2040. In a country that has survived a pandemic like Covid-19, with more focus and work, winning over this epidemic is not a big task!


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