Egyptians smoked 82 billion cigarettes in fiscal 2012-2013 period, up from 77 billion cigarettes in year-ago period, according to report by Eastern Tobacco

MIDDLE EAST , October 31, 2013 () – Egyptians smoked 82 billion cigarettes in fiscal year 2012-2013, a five billion increase over the previous year, according to a report issued this month by the Eastern Tobacco Company.

Additionally, 17,000 tonnes of shisha tobacco was produced during the same period, the same as the previous year, and sales of locally-produced cigarettes totalled 17.8 billion Egyptian pounds ($2.6 billion), up 1.1 billion pounds ($160 million) from the previous year, while sales of imported cigarettes reached an estimated 22.6 billion pounds ($3.3 billion), up from 19.6 billion pounds ($2.8 billion).

Medical professionals told Al-Shorfa these figures represent a dangerous trend and that Egypt must seek ways to mitigate the adverse effects of smoking on public health and the economy.

"Smoking is one of the worst habits affecting public health that is practiced in Egypt and is the fourth cause of death," said Dr. Mohammed al-Buraie, a health awareness programme advisor who specialises in treating addiction to tobacco products.

Smoking-related deaths in Egypt reach 170,000 a year, while 200 smoking-related illnesses directly and indirectly affect millions of Egyptians each year, according to the Ministry of Health.

Smoking-related causes of death include pneumonia, lung cancer and pulmonary embolism, al-Buraie said.

"What is so dangerous about smoking is that young people are picking it up," he said, adding that an estimated half a million Egyptian smokers are under the age of 15.

Al-Buraie said men smoke more than women, with male smokers accounting for 33.9% of the total population and female smokers making up 0.2% of the population.

Smoking has negative economic effects as well, he said adding that treatment for smoking-related illnesses costs the country around five billion Egyptian pounds ($726 million) annually.

Smoking also can drain the resources of families, he said, especially those on low income.

Locally produced cigarettes retail for up to six Egyptian pounds ($0.87) a pack, while imported brands can reach 20 pounds ($2.90), said Misbah Khaireddine of the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS).

There are conflicting reports about the number of smokers in Egypt, he told Al-Shorfa, but all refer to more than nine million smokers.

"Numbers coming from CAPMAS refer to 9.4 million smokers while figures released by the Ministry of Health show 13 million smokers in only 10 governorates," he said.
Efforts to stub out smoking

The Egyptian government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society organisations (CSOs) have taken a number of measures to combat smoking and limit its spread.

The government has raised taxes imposed on tobacco by 80% since 2010, said Dr. Fathi Karim, who serves on the anti-smoking and addiction committee affiliated with the Egyptian Doctors Syndicate.

"The government has been committed to monitoring markets and placing graphic images on cigarette packages that explain the hazards of smoking," he told Al-Shorfa. "Such measures have helped a small percentage of smokers kick the habit."

"NGOs and CSOs also have conducted many awareness and educational campaigns, but this requires a much bigger effort," he said.

Efforts to curb smoking should also include anti-smoking and addiction laws, particularly with the popularity of hookahs among younger people, Karim said.

"Hookah smoking is no less dangerous than cigarette smoking, and there are misconceptions about hookah being less harmful than cigarettes while the opposite is true," he said.

"The products that burn in hookahs produce carcinogenic substances that cause dangerous illnesses such as lung, oesophagus, stomach and colon cancers," he said.

(c) 2013 Al-Shorfa Provided by an company

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