UAE doctors support region-wide ban on chewing tobacco

Medical professionals around the GCC are backing calls for a regional law to ban the sale and importation of chewing tobacco.

ABU DHABI // Medical professionals around the GCC are backing calls for a regional law to ban the sale and importation of chewing tobacco.

The Ministry of Health, in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment and Water, is discussing the ban with other GCC countries because of the harmful effects of tobacco.

Chewing tobacco is banned in the UAE, but available in other Arabian Gulf countries.

Dr Widad Al Midoor, head of the anti-tobacco team at the health ministry, told Al Ittihad, the Arabic-language sister newspaper of The National, that talks were under way to impose a standard tax on tobacco products across the region.

A recent meeting of GCC finance ministers discussed enacting such laws.

Medical experts have supported a chewing-tobacco ban, saying the substance is extremely damaging to health.

Dr Devendra Reddy, a dental surgeon at LLH Hospital in Mussaffah, said: “I get quite a number of patients who chew tobacco. While some stop after I counsel them, others are not so determined and do not return. It is an addiction.

“Such a ban throughout the GCC is certainly needed and I would support it.”

He said chewing tobacco could cause gum problems, sensitivity in the mouth and oral cancer.

“I have noticed that many people who chew tobacco are also unable to concentrate as it affects them mentally,” said Dr Reddy, who has worked in the UAE for the past 13 years.

Dr Manodip Acharya, an internal medicine specialist at Dr Aster mobile clinic in Dubai, said there was a common misconception that chewing tobacco was a less harmful alternative to smoking.

“Technically there is no difference between smoking and chewing tobacco, the consequences are the same and the damage is the same. Chewing tobacco is linked to oral cancer, and to cancer of the tongue, lips and mouth,” said Dr Acharya, who is spearheading Aster’s continuing anti-smoking campaign.

“Dubai has been declared tobacco free and I would think that a pan-GCC ban on chewing tobacco is necessary and important.

“Many people get addicted to it. Gastroenteritis and problems of the oesophagus are also caused by the consumption of chewing tobacco.”

The anti-smoking campaign involves presentations, counselling and medical help for smokers to help them to quit.

arizvi2@thenational.ae

Published: December 4, 2014 04:00 AM

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