In a bid to make this year’s Haj pilgrimage completely tobacco free, Saudi Arabia’s health ministry has launched a “no-smoking campaign” in the holy sites Mecca and Madinah.
Though sale of tobacco and tobacco products will be strictly banned within five kilometres of the two holy places, language barrier is proving to be one of the major hurdles in making these cities tobacco-free during the pilgrimage.
“Under the ministry’s Tobacco Control Programme (TCP), we have printed around 1.5 million leaflets in different languages for distribution among pilgrims - both smokers and non-smokers,” TCP’s supervisor-general Majed Al-Munif said, adding that they are available in Arabic, English, French, Persian, Urdu, Turkish, Indonesian and Swahili languages.
“We require cooperation of pilgrims to make the holy cities among those with lowest tobacco consumption in the world,” he said.
Billboards and posters with anti-smoking messages, information regarding anti—smoking clinics is on display and buses carrying pilgrims also have anti-smoking posters on them. Pamphlets, flyers, postcards and stickers will also be handed to pilgrims during Haj.
“We’ve coined a slogan for this Haj - ‘Make Arafat Day, A Quit Smoking Day.’ The slogan will serve as a pledge ... that will enable pilgrims to quit smoking,” he said.
In 2002, Saudi King Abdullah had declared the two holy cities tobacco-free. Since then, efforts are on in stamping out the habit.
Over two million people visit the two holy cities during Haj each year.