Millions of dollars spent on cigarette consumption regionally
Nearly 40% of Kurds smoke according to a new survey
According to new statistics, approximately 35% to 40% of those living in Kurdistan smoke, which costs US$ 70 million every year.
Statistics collected by the Kurdistan Association for Fighting Smoking shows that nearly 35% to 40% of the region’s population smoke. This amounts to US$ 70 Million on an annual basis according to a survey conducted in the Kurdistan Region. The prices of a pack of cigarette ranges from IQD 500 (approximately US$ 0.42) to IQD 7,000 (approximately US$ 6).
Unfortunately, those purchasing cigarettes are between the ages of 12 yearsold and 80 years-old. There are no legal consequences for shop-keepers who sell cigarettes to children. In most European countries, it is illegal to sell cigarettes to those under the age of 18, and in some countries the age restriction is extended to 21 years-old. This protects children from this unhealthy habit, which has detrimental health consequences.
Jamil Ahmed, a cigarette wholesaler in the Cigarette Market in Erbil Downtown explains that the demand for cigarettes are higher than ever before. He said ‘The demand is extremely high because an increasing number of young people are smoking’. This could be for many reasons, namely it is socially ‘acceptable’ for young people to smoke, and access to cigarettes is very easy, with cheap packs being sold at every corner shop.
One of the regular customers in the Cigarette Market in Erbil is Sarkar Samei, who has been smoking for more than ten years. He believes smoking helps reduce tension, and ‘takes away misery’. Medical experts explain that smokers eventually get addicted because of Nicotine that is found in cigarettes, and their body craves for Nicotine, consequently causes addiction.
The Kurdistan Association for Fighting Smoking has pushed for more regulation on cigarettes. They have campaigned on a consistent basis, urging the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to tax cigarette importation, and fine those who smoke in public areas. In United Kingdom, smok- ing in public places such as restaurants, pubs, and clubs were banned for public safety purposes. The initiative has been successful so far, and imposing a similar ban in Kurdistan Region will help reduce cigarette consumption.
The Kurdistan Region’s Parliament approved a bill banning smoking in public areas, which is known as Law Number 31 in 2007. According to Article 5 of the law, parliament has banned smoking in public areas, and imposes fines on those who break the law. The bill takes further measures to ensure public safety by urging governmental bodies to issue health warnings on all cigarette packs both in Arabic and Kurdish, which is found in Paragraph 2 of Article 5. However, since the passing of this law, no preventive action has been taken by the Government, and there are no regulatory bodies enforcing this law. This law is only followed in some governmental offices, and inside local buses.
Dr. Jamil Rashid, Director of Planning at the Ministry of Health of KRG) argues that there is nothing like a good or high quality cigarette. “All of them contain harmful material and hence are similarly unhealthy and harmful to smokers’ health,” stated Dr. Rashid.
There are no rules or regulations within the KRG Trade and Industry Ministry which regulates the import of cigarettes, and this includes providing licenses to those who import it. The Ministry does not have comprehensive data about cigarette imports and its consumption. Traders who apply for a license within the Ministry are able to receive a license for the duration of six months, and a fixed value of imports.
Throughout the world, the number of smoking-related health issues, and deaths are recorded, in Kurdistan region this has not developed. Consequently, there are no statistics available to warn people with, and campaigning effectively for more strict laws against smoking have lacked statistical credibility. According to KRG’s Health Ministry a signifi- cant number of those who die due to smoking heavily are registered as ‘lung disease-related’ in their death certificates.
Smoking does not just harm those who smoke, but those around them too. This includes their children, who are often victims of smokers, inhaling second hand smoke, which is just as harmful as directly smoking. According to World Health Organization (WHO) more than 5 million people die out of smoking every year and 600,000 more nonsmokers become indirect victims of smoking.
A young boy smokes shisha (waterpipe) in an Erbil Dontown Street.