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Egypt Smokes to Death

Adding to its list of many accolades, Egypt is now ranked among the top three countries with the highest rate of smokers. We're pretty sure the only other thing that we do more often is watch porn.

Smoke'em if you got'em before you have to drop'em. Egyptians have something to celebrate. No, we aren't referring to a newly elected president, but rather the fact that a report suggests Egypt is leading a new World Health Organization list. Although the list is yet to be released, WHO is claiming that Egypt, Iran and Pakistan are expected to be the top tobacco consuming growth countries within the next 40 years.

According to a press release by the United Nation Information Center in Tehran, WHO is calling on countries like Egypt to raise tobacco taxes. By increasing the price of tobacco, governments and health programmes stand to make more money, while communities become healthier as smokers come to terms with being unable to purchase a pack. “By raising tobacco taxes,” says Dr. Alaa Alwan, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, “we can reduce tobacco use and prevent young people from starting to smoke.”

Despite claims suggesting that tobacco use is on the decline globally, WHO believes that it is increasing in the Eastern Mediterranean region. Cigarettes are currently the most prevalent form of regulated tobacco, but water pipes come in at a close second. It is estimated that Egypt and Saudi Arabia account for over 40% of the market worldwide.

The press release issued by the UN Information Center (UNIC) suggests that smoking prevalence has reached as high as 47% among young males and females, aged 13–15 years, in certain countries in the region. While the increasing hookah consumption has placed the Eastern Mediterranean region second globally in male tobacco use, following the Western Pacific Region. The statement provides evidence clearly showing that higher taxation on tobacco products is an effective deterrent to smoking. A 10% increase in tobacco prices would reduce tobacco consumption in countries by 4% to 5%, reducing the number of smokers and saving many lives.

Tobacco accounts for almost 6 million deaths every year (including over 600,000 deaths from exposure to second-hand smoke), and is projected to increase to 8 million by 2030. The Eastern Mediterranean Region has the second lowest average for cigarette prices. “In some countries,” explains Dr. Alwan “a cigarette pack can be sold for less than one US dollar.”

This statement was released just ahead of World No Tobacco Day, which is intended to discourage tobacco users from consuming tobacco and to encourage governments, communities, groups and individuals to become aware of the problem and take appropriate action. Launched by WHO in 1988, the day is celebrated around the world on May 31st every year. However, we are yet to here of any plans of celebrating the day in Egypt. Seems like a good a day as any other to quit.