Smokers in Sharjah can win cash by quitting

All those who can prove they have not taken a puff during the holy month will have their names put into a draw.

SHARJAH // The Sharjah Department of Islamic Affairs is offering a powerful incentive to those who wish to quit smoking during Ramadan: cash. All those who can prove they have not taken a puff during the holy month will have their names put into a draw. The winner will take home Dh10,000 and the second prize will be Dh5,000, with additional winners up to 10th place awarded mobile phones and other electronic devices.

"Gathering all the will power they have, Muslim smokers who fast during Ramadan are refraining from food, drinks, sex and smoking during the daytime to fulfil their religious obligation of fasting," said Twalib Ibrahim al Marri, the head of the department. "Now we are saying that they should extend this anti-smoking behaviour for all their lives." Smoking is acknowledged as one of the biggest causes of premature death and can lead to cancer, heart attacks and lung disease. The habit can shorten a smoker's life by as much as 14 years.

Those interested in the competition must register by calling 800 1441, the department's toll-free number, stating they intend to quit. They will then go to a health centre for medical tests that prove they are smokers, and keep in contact with a department official about their progress. Contestants will be tested at the end of the month to prove they did not light up and thereby qualify for the drawing.

"Their names would be put in a jackpot and then rolled, after which we would ask a young child to pick out one paper which would have the name of the winner," said Arif al Amiri, the head of the department's awareness section. "Then the second and all others would also be picked." Contestants will be monitored through mobile phone, will receive e-mails and will be offered seminars to help them stay the course, Mr al Amiri said. Those who stray back into the habit will receive counselling and additional assistance.

The programme also will distribute brochures giving tips to smokers on how to kick the habit, such as advising them to break away from the smoking crowd and stay at home if necessary, as well as avoiding drinks or foods associated with smoking.