The Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control

Dr Ali Abdolahinia - Research Manager of the Iranian Anti-Tobacco Association

Dr Ali AbdolahiniaSince the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) was ratified in Iran in 2005, the Iranian Anti-Tobacco Association (IATA), founded in 1983, has worked hard to decrease tobacco consumption in the country.

IATA’s hard work has led to the ratification and implementation of Iran’s national tobacco control law, which includes pictorial health warnings and tobacco tax increases. However, IATA’s Research Manager Dr Ali Abdolahinia says that in some cases, ratifying laws in Iran is easier than implementing them, especially when it comes to tobacco control.

“It’s thought that the increase in tobacco smuggling is due to implementing anti-tobacco laws, which is putting pressure on the government to suspend Iran’s tobacco control law,” said Dr Abdolahinia.

“However, anti-tobacco activists, especially IATA members, have been trying to neutralise these pressures, by lobbying in Iran’s parliament and encouraging mass media in this regard.”

Tobacco trade’s deadly benefits

Dr Abdolahinia says most countries recognise that tobacco use is a life threatening issue but they don’t want to give up the benefits created through tobacco trade.

“This inconsistency remains a great challenge not only for us in Iran, but also for all anti-tobacco activists throughout the world. Countries’ officials believe that if they give up the tobacco trade, given current smokers, the benefits of this trade will be guided to others.”

IATA’s work also includes:

•    Establishing several cessation clinics;
•    Research on tobacco-related issues, such as effects of tobacco control policies on consumption.
•    Facilitating strategies for fighting tobacco smuggling.
•    Convincing officials on importance of tobacco control as a vital issue.

“Clean Breath” for the young

One of IATA’s more interesting tobacco control strategies is to target young people through its “Clean Breath” programme.

“We think that besides all kinds of FCTC related activities, we should consider cultural and educational issues, especially for children and adolescents because they are most vulnerable to the harms of tobacco use,” said Dr Abdolahinia.

Actors from the Clean Breath program’s play teaching students about the importance of abstaining from cigarettes.The Clean Breath programme targets young people in the hope to steer them away from smoking at an early age – before they have taken up the habit and find it harder to quit later in life.
Dr Abdolahinia said a recent Iranian study into the smoking patterns of Tehran school students found that roughly 30 percent had already tried smoking.

Therefore, IATA believes that encouraging preventive methods from childhood and developing effective methods of child-rearing for parents will have a great effect on preventing young people from taking up smoking.

The programme aims to increase children’s awareness about:

•    The harms of smoking to their physical, mental, social and economic well-being as well as the environment;
•    Unreasonable beliefs on tobacco use and the difficulty of quitting;
•    Acquiring self-knowledge and applying behavioural skills against cravings for smoking;
•    Training other family members to prevent tobacco use in the home and community.

According to Dr Abdolahinia, Iran has a young population that plays a critical role in the country’s prosperity.

“We believe that young people need to be targeted before they are fascinated by tobacco companies,” he said.

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