Sexual Smoking Images in Jordan to Stop Smokers

smoking sex jordan

Translated from a poster in Jordan: “Smoking for a long period of time affects marital relations.”

I’m not “blowing smoke” when I rave about Amman. No need, because Amman generates enough smoke on its own. This city rivals onions in making eyes water. Blame diesel fuel. Trucks, cars, buses blast chewy plumes of black exhaust. Heavy equipment on uncontrolled worksites add to the smog. Now introduce the smokers of cigarettes, cigars and arghileh.

Smoking’s entrenched in Arab culture. (My doctor lit up during our consult.) Cabbies puff with abandon, businessmen chainsmoke through meetings. Tobacco’s cheap in Jordan, a virtual give-away. A pack of smokes costs under 3 bucks (compared to $8 in NYC,  $12 in Dublin). Hookah – or hubbly-bubbly – is an essential part of Ammanian café culture; patrons flock to restaurants offering unique settings for enjoying the pipe. Arghileh is on most menus.

In 2005,  Jordan and Egypt ratified the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a treaty aimed at nipping tobacco use . Follow-on action has been at a slow drag. Jordan’s Public Health Law incorporated anti-smoking controls in 2008, but enforcement didn’t start until 2009. Smoking was banned in fast-food restaurants in 2010, but other businesses in the public realm were given a grace period to adapt. Smoking is now taboo in all public areas. Airport terminals in Cairo and Amman are no-smo-zones: but smoke rings their entry points (drivers, passengers, meeters and greeters cluster outside to light up).  

Non-compliance can result in fines, but enforcement is problematic.

In August, to comply with WHO treaty obligations, packaging on cigarettes sold in Jordan and Egypt will feature vivid photos of smoking health risks. It’s a big step for countries where public discussion on the evils of tobacco is nearly nonexistent.

Anti-smoking campaigns are timid in this slice of the globe. Smoking in developed countries declined in the ‘90s, but the American Cancer Society says it grew 8.6 percent in the Middle East.

Lebanon leads in the smoking Olympics: a breathtaking 58.8% light up daily. Over 60% of Egyptian men use tobacco (no reliable statistics for women) whereas fewer than 25% of American men smoke. The National Jordanian Anti-Smoking Society asserts that 21% of students aged 13-18 smoke cigarettes or hookah, despite it being illegal to sell tobacco products to kids!  Jordanians spend half a billion US dollars annually on tobacco. This, in a nation where 25% of households earn less than $6,000 per year.

“The objective of the ban is to maintain public health,” said Jordanian Health Ministry spokesperson Hatem Azruie. “Non-smokers have the right to breathe clean air.” The ministry offers free consultations and nicotine substitutes to city smokers who are trying to kick the habit, and plans to expand the program to rural locations to help smokers quit throughout the Kingdom.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s Ministry of Health released new warning labels featuring a coughing child, a cartoon fetus, and a limp cigarette implying impotence. The accompanying Arabic messages advise:

“Smoking around pregnant women harms the fetus and causes miscarriage.’

smoke pregnancy ads jordan

“Smoking affects children – protect your children from smoking.”

smoking children ads jordan

“I would like to quit but I just can’t,” said Osama Sabri Mohammed, a 39-year-old civil servant, between cigarette drags outside his Cairo office. “This one specifically will have an effect on Egyptians, since we’re  really concerned about that,” he said, awkwardly tapping the image of the limp cigarette. A stack of studies, including a 2003 Tulane University report, have proven smoking to be a major cause of erectile disfunction.

Warnings that link tobacco with premature death have been shown as ineffectual, as health researchers concluded that most Egyptians perceive death as “inevitable”.  Emphasizing negative impacts such as diminished sexual performance is expected to provide new motivation to kick the habit, especially among young smokers. “We need something to give smokers a shock,” said Dr. Mohammed Mehrez, head of the Egyptian tobacco control department. Wide cultural acceptance of die-hard smoking presents real challenges to these campaigns.

I don’t smoke.  But I can empathize. See there’s no easy substitute for the habit. I applaud this somewhat grisly/yet kinda comical effort to curb smoking,  but will it work?  History shows people  simply ignore warning labels.  Or maybe a new niche market will arise:   custom covers for cigarette packs to mask the offending images – monogrammed, or sporting a favorite team logo – call it an iSmoke? – maybe coming soon to a mall near you.

(Note: Images Egyptian Ministry of Health)

13 thoughts on “Sexual Smoking Images in Jordan to Stop Smokers

  1. SAS

    How to combat tobacco abuse –

    1) Raise taxes for cigarettes. Make them expensive to purchase.

    2) Ban tobacco advertisements and sponsorships in all shapes and forms.

    3) Ban smoking in all public and private areas.

    4) Subsidize Nicotine patches, gum, inhalers and Chantix/Wellbutrin – anything it takes to quit.

    5) Compulsory anti tobacco education from kindergarten onwards

    6) Cover at least half of all cigarette packages with graphic images of consequences of smoking.

    I am sure the above measures can work in Jordan and other Middle eastern countries as well as anywhere else in the world.

    Reply
  2. Laurie Balbo Post author

    Actually never saw anti-smoking or recycling commercials as a little kid glued to ’60-’70’s TV. There was a single iconic anti-littering commercial (shot of trash being tossed out car windows, litter on a shoreline, with a close-up of a tearful American Indian Chief).

    What curbed smoking in the USA was a 3-pronged approach of legislation (banning smoking in specific spaces), followed by changes to those spaces (special smoking rooms with high-power exhaust systems; signage; removal of ashtrays), and lastly ever-increasing taxation on tobacco. Awareness campaigns are part of the toolbox, but people’s behavior seems more changeable when things affect them personally (discomfort, cost).

    Reply
  3. Ra'anan

    Television commercials are what changed a far more primitive America during the 1960’s. These tv commmercials made Americans sensitive to littering, recycling and SMOKING, which was far harder to fight due to addiction. Other countries have to learn from these commercials because they show longer term consequences w/in a few seconds.

    Reply
  4. Saad

    By the way, to answer your question, a pack of cigarettes in Saudi Arabia costs 8 riyals, which is about 2 US Dollars.

    Reply
  5. Laurie Balbo Post author

    Did you see the most excellent movie “CLERKS”? (OK, showing NJ roots with that fan-rave.) There’s a scene where an anti-smoking guy drops a charred lung on the deli counter.

    I wish I could get hold of one of those to shake around Amman.

    The Irish labels are quite stark – SMOKERS DIE YOUNGER – but I agree, photos hold more power than text. Not to detract from the Egyptian and Jordanian efforts, but a high-resolution photo packs more punch than a cartoon.

    Recall those ancient TV ads by Yul Brynner and other ancient “stars”? Death-bed speeches about “Kids, don’t start…”?

    Astounding US laws still coddle tobacco, especially as the US market has so dwindled. Kudos to all the parents out there who don;t light up, likely the best preventative measure there is to new smokers.

    Reply
  6. Brian Nitz

    A U.S. federal judge just blocked a law which would have required cigarette companies to display anti-smoking images on their packages. Long ago the FDA set a precedent requiring labeling on food products which have been known to cause cancer in laboratory animals. But it’s not possible to detail the dangers of tobacco in multiple languages on a tiny cigarette pack. A picture is worth 1000 words.

    Reply
  7. Nayef

    The Royal Commission of Yanbu organized the event and sponsored it with 30 other companies according to what has been posted online.

    I have no idea what cigarette packs cost since I never buy them. I could ask one of my friends who smokes occasionally the price they pay if you want to know.

    Yes, smoking is a really sad phenomenon – physically and financially.

    Jordan is in desperate need for money given the coming challenges it faces in energy and water so I am all for a high tax on tobacco there. Unfortunately, I don’t think it will happen given how entrenched the practice is in the lifestyles of Jordanians. If the policeman themselves are constantly smoking, what hope do we have that they will enforce a tobacco tax?

    Reply
  8. laurie

    Nayef

    Any idea who or what group sponsored the Flower Festival? It seems that anti-smoking campaign was effective.

    Also – what does a pack of cigarettes cost in Saudi Arabia? I have smoking freinds in Ireland who would regularly skip lunches or go without a new pair of shoes in order to have cash for their smokes. But that’s true addiction. I think Jordan could see positive change if they also raised tobacco prices via taxation or other levies: money could be used to fund health programs.

    Thanks for your comments, it’s fantastci to see what’s happening in someone else’s hometown!

    Reply
  9. Nayef

    It’s simply not as common in Saudi Arabia although that isn’t to say it’s not a problem here (it’s a problem in most of the world except the US is ahead of a lot of countries on this issue). Here, if you come to a party gathering, you won’t find that the majority are smoking (with an exception of an occasional arghileh). So let’s say there is no arghileh at a gathering and ten men come together, out of those men, only two of them will be smoking cigarettes or pipes or whatever an the rest won’t be doing anything. My experience is limited so I cannot speak for everybody, but this is what I observe. And I have never seen a women smoke a cigarette in Saudi Arabia. Smoking here is mostly limited to some special niche groups (middle-aged men, gangster boys, and some party-goers). Several years ago, we use to have an event known as a Flower Festival in my town in Saudi Arabia. One of the things that happened in this event was that displays would be put up with graphic images, figures, and short clips showing the danger of smoking. The event doesn’t happen anymore, but I believe it left a strong impact on the people living here so that you don’t notice smoking as something common. The problem of smoking is much more severe in Jordan where you find everyone smoking with no resistance and hardly any fruitful discussion to end the suicidal behavior.

    Reply
  10. Laurie Balbo

    Sa’ada

    Love your observations. When I was a kid (USA)our favorite candy store item (after those big red wax lips) were fake bubble gum cigarettes – sold in a pack and wrapped in paper – and when you “puffed” on them – a white powder would blow out of the end of the wrapper. Pressure to smoke was everywhere, think I never got into it because my parents weren’t smokers.

    It seems like fireman smoke more than any other job group – I have a million firemen cousins and they all smoke like chimneys.It could be stress, or habit – or like the researcher said of Egyptian smokers – they may just be fatalistic given all the smoke they are exposed to.

    I was always pretty accepting of it all until I had my children.Like you, I don’t think kids and smoking mix. Why do you think it’s less a problem in Saudi? (Thanks for the great comments).

    Reply
  11. sa'ada

    hey, laurie, i’ve got some good ones too. my husband was working with a guy who worked on an anti-smoking campaign and can you guess what he was doing during their meeting (in his anti-smoking campaign office!) yeah, he was smoking. ok, and then there are the bus drivers who sit in the driver’s seat, right under the no smoking sign and do what? smoke. apparently, as we’ve been told, the sign applies to passengers. the same at the place where you get your vehicle registration. and don’t ask your taxi driver to put out his cigarette, even though you may be pregnant or have a newborn with you, unless you are willing to be kicked out of the taxi. one time we were buying firecrackers from a maktaba and the guy demonstrated them for us by lighting some and throwing them over our heads towards the front of the store. while he was holding his cigarette in his hand.

    but the one that shocked me the most was when we took a group of children to tour a fire station. the kids got to sit in the back of an ambulance and watch firefighters using a hose and when it came time for them to stand on the fire engine a fire fighter very kindly lifted them up onto the engine. while he was holding his cigarette in his hand.

    when we lived there we had a big problem with our young boys pretending to smoke. they did it because that is what they saw men do. they pretended to be taxi drivers, shop workers, construction workers, garbage men, soldiers, and all of them smokers. they would pick up butts off of the sidewalk and take them out of ashtrays in the back of taxis. they would ‘smoke’ pencils, crayons, breadsticks, anything shaped like cigarettes. that behavior almost completely stopped when we moved to saudi arabia. the problem with smoking is not so big here. jordan is probably one of the worst so i hope this campaign can help.

    Reply

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