Media & Smoking (Archived)

In the previous articles we spoke about the influence of media in spreading habits of smoking in Arab societies, especially between women and teenagers, and where tobacco companies contemplate their efforts on those members of society, since they constitute the majority of orient societies according to latest statistics, adding a fact that adult men markets have reached their peak and provided its full profitable potentials.

The question we asked here is: How do we stop this from crawling furthermore, and turn media aspects into a powerful anti-smoking tool?

Before we go into some of those solutions, we found it useful to study some solutions conducted by the United States of America to that regard, which resulted in decreasing smokers from 41% to 20% in the past two decades.

Some of those solutions concentrate on producing and broadcasting intense and influential multimedia programs on harmful effects of smoking, through daily televised programs using modern and advanced media tools, such as computers, animation, influential figures and famous actors.

Specialists in medical science, sociology, behavioral psychology and media are supervising the content of those programs, to address certain sections of society which is used under certain social and intellectual and psychological standards, addressing them in different levels at the same time in order to accomplish its purposes, helping many to quit smoking, and protect others from falling under the claws of this harmful habit.

Those programs are funded from dedicated budgets to this purpose, a big part of it comes from cigarette tax revenues, and another parts come from anti-smoking institutes and cancer and heart disease society groups and many medical clinics, in addition to collaborative efforts of governmental and private sectors.

Going back to the questions: What about the Arab world??

In our last visit to the Arab world, questioning about those programs, we have confirmed that such programs are almost nonexistent to that end. However, opposite to that, was multimedia advertising and promotions about different kinds of tobacco products, while the whole society is in a hypnosis state of mind, even with the terrifying increase of smokers.

Some has pointed out that, one of the main problems is funding those Anti-smoking programs.

We would like to also indicate here in response to that answer the cost on Arab countries and communities as a result from smoking, is far more damaging than anyone could imagine. Readers should conduct a quick comparison between Middle Eastern countries and the United States of America, as the direct cost of harmful effects of smoking in America exceeds 100 billion dollars a year, noting that less than 20% of Americans are smokers, and where Arab world population as a whole comes close to the number of Americans, while smokers percentage in Arab countries is between 60-70% which is 3 times the number of smokers in America according to the World Health Organization, we can also conclude an average percentage for the yearly cost of harmful smoking effects in Arabic countries.

Realizing those effects, America spent hundreds of millions of dollars to support anti-smoking campaigns, as a result, saving tens of billions of dollars, and decreasing the percentage of smokers and the diseases caused by smoking. An investment in the right place! Their model was ‘soon smoking will belong to history and past’.

With a quick comparison, we find that a pack of cigarettes in America is twice the price of a pack of cigarettes in Saudi Arabia, and in England it is almost 4 times the price found in Saudi as a result of those taxes. Some countries of this region has actually began to take measures to increase taxes on tobacco products as anti-smoking tactics, but under the condition that those revenues are invested into anti-smoking campaigns, and to eradicate this habit from their communities, bearing in mind that those increased taxes should not be a target to punish smokers or finding a new revenue for national income.

Finally, we suggest that there should be a committee of specialists in areas of health, media, education, and psychology, who is engaged in such issues and are fully aware of its importance, also to supply them with the proper funds that fit the magnitude of this issue from mentioned resources, and to encourage private sectors to cooperate and engage in funding such campaigns, especially Banking and finance sectors of the Arab world, which ‘to what we know’ recorded profits most banks of the world never did. This committee is responsible to conduct the following:

1-      Produce programs and multimedia segments to raise awareness (as mentioned previously).

2-      Prepare educational materials that should be included in scientific curriculums of schools and educational faculties.

3-      Find standards and criteria’s to evaluate those programs and their effects, and change them according to results.

We only can wish for those suggestions to find a way into the hearts and minds of those who can apply change and reform, to avoid reaching the day where the westerners proud past would become our lament present.