Nearly 200 people die every week in Iraq including its Kurdish regions of tobacco related diseases. Photo: AP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — As the world observes World No Tobacco Day on Wednesday, Kurdish health officials plan to restrict cigarette availability to minors and raise existing tobacco taxes to confront an increase in the number of smokers in the Kurdistan Region.
“We have recommended to the government to raise tobacco taxes and make sure that the consumer is aware of the dangers of smoking. The packaging should not be attractive and should deter smokers,” said Dr. Khalis Qadir at the health ministry.
With 23 percent of the adult population smoking, the overall percentage of smokers in the Kurdistan Region is higher than the world average of 21 percent, ministry data shows.
Nearly 200 people die every week in Iraq including its Kurdish regions of tobacco related diseases, according to Tobacco Atlas, a global database on smoking statistics.
Although smoking has been banned in all indoor public places in Kurdistan since 2007, few people, if any, have been charged for smoking in public, according to the ministry.
“There should be more national awareness about how dangerous smoking is and how to prevent minors from starting smoking,” said Dr. Abdulfatah Hawrami at Sulaimani School of Medicine.
“It should be more expensive to buy cigarettes and set up research centres that can help smokers quit,” Hawrami said.
World No Tobacco Day is observed around the world every year on May 31. It is intended to encourage a 24-hour period of abstinence from all forms of tobacco consumption around the globe.
Tobacco use currently leads to nearly 6 million deaths each year worldwide, including 600,000 of which are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoking.