A staggering number of teenagers are turning to tobacco usage in the country, a Federal National Council (FNC) session held on Tuesday revealed.
Addressing Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al Owais, the Minister of Health and Prevention (MoHP), a member of FNC, Saeed Al Rumaithi, said: "Twenty-one per cent of the UAE population are into smoking and 15 per cent of them are teenagers under the age of 18."
Al Rumaithi stressed that it is crucial to raise more anti-tobacco awareness programmes in schools, as the number of smokers among teenagers is a massive concern.
"Our biggest concern is smokers who are between 10-18 years old and it is a huge responsibility to the authorities concerned," Al Rumaithi added.
The session also looked into the positive outcomes of initiatives carried out by the National Anti Tobacco Committee formed by the MoHP.
In his reply, the minister said the subject is "complex" despite various achievements already made by the committee, including 14 quit-smoking clinics across the UAE, which saw an increase in cases received by 25 per cent between 2015 and 2016. Furthermore, 20 per cent of the people who went to the clinics ended up quitting, Al Owais added.
The committee has also increased the doctors specialising in the field, by a whopping 150 per cent.
"We also started providing new medication that help quit smoking and non-conventional alternatives. There are also mobile clinics," added the minister.
More emergency doctors needed
Also during the session, FNC member, Ahmed Al Nuaimi, asked if the ministry will increase the number of doctors in emergency departments. "It has been noticed that only one doctor works in the emergency departments, to treat all the cases that are being received."
Al Owais replied: "The ministry's hospitals are equipped with 250 beds and last year more than 750,000 people were admitted in the emergency departments compared to 682,354 in 2015."
This year, until September, 474,539 have been admitted.
"The emergency cases in 2015 were only 24 per cent of the total cases received, and we took measures for this issue. Many cases that came, such as cold and flu or diarrhea, are treated at the emergency ward, which is an obstacle for actual emergency cases."
The minister said emergency cases have reached 37 per cent of total cases. "People might only see one doctor in the emergency, but there are four to six doctors on duty, who even sleep in the hospital."
Reporting by Jasmine Al Kuttab
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