US $70 m smoked annually
Some 40% of Kurds smoke
Despite the fact that there are no official statistics, information available to the Kurdish Globe shows that the value of the cigarettes imported into the Kurdistan Region every year is in the region of US$ 70 million.
Statistics provided by the Smoking Eradication Union indicate that between 35% and 40% of the population are smokers.
Smokers in Kurdistan range from very young teens to very elderly people, a fact that has turned the region into a booming market for cigarettes, where a pack costs between IQD 500 (approximately US$ 0.40) and IQD 6,000 (approximately US$ 5).
According to Abdulwahid Mohamed, a cigarette distributor in the Erbil Cigarette Market, more teens and youths are starting to smoke, and huge amounts of cigarettes are distributed from the Market every day.
Sameer Sardar, who has been smoking for ten years, says he smokes more than usual when he feels sad or tense.
Studies have long since discovered that cigarettes contain nicotine, which leads to addiction and makes it difficult for smokers to quit smoking. When a smoker does not smoke for a while, the amount of nicotine in their body decreases, leaving them feeling anxious and in need of a cigarette to increase the amount of nicotine in their body and relieve their anxiety.
The Parliament of the Kurdistan Region passed a law in 2007 banning smoking in public places and requiring all cigarette packets to bear printed health warnings in both Kurdish and Arabic.
Although smoking has almost stopped in certain public places, such as government offices and public transport, the law has never really been enforced. As a result, not a single person has ever been fined for smoking in a public place, and the majority of cigarettes still do not carry health warnings.
Dr. Khalis Qadir, an official spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, argues that there are no good and bad cigarette: “All kinds of cigarettes are equally harmful, and all of them contain harmful materials.”
Cigarette import licenses are easy to get in Kurdis- tan, and any merchant who wants to import cigarettes is given an import license for six months without any additional controls over the quality or quantity of the cigarettes imported.
The General Directorate of Import and Export at the Ministry of Trade and Industry was unable to provide any statistics about the amount or value of Kurdistan’s cigarette imports.
Although most countries worldwide gather accurate statistics recording deaths caused by smoking, both as a tool for dissuading smokers and for use in planning and decision-making, no such statistics are available in Kurdistan. Here, those who die due to smoking are normally registered as victims of lung disease.
A recent survey by the Healthy Life Organization found that 32% of physicians, 3% of religious figures and 18% of women in Kurdistan smoke.
Despite these facts and figures, the government does not seem to be doing anything to curb the number of smokers in Kurdistan, whose numbers are swell-
ing on a daily basis.
World Health Organization report
According to the most recent WHO report, around 5 million people die every year due to smoking. Additionally, a further 600,000 non-smokers fall victim to cigarettes as passive smokers who inhale others’ smoke.
The report also reveals that the number of smoking-related deaths is expected to rise to 10 million by the year 2020.