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The UN’s warning to Syrian smokers is beyond parody

14 June 2016

5:01 PM

14 June 2016

5:01 PM

You really can’t make this stuff up. With hundreds of thousands of people dead and millions fleeing for their lives, the failed state of Syria is being told by the World Health Organisation to concentrate on… plain packaging.

In a statement last week, the UN health agency warned that ‘notwithstanding the current crisis in the country,’ Syrian officials should collaborate with the UN health agency to control the use of tobacco and water pipes among its people, especially young adults, women and teenagers. This is rather like telling passengers on the Titanic that ‘notwithstanding the iceberg’ they should collaborate with staff to tidy away the deckchairs.

WHO’s Syria representative, Dr. Elizabeth Hoff, warned that using tobacco and water pipes endangers the health and lives of smokers and people around them. Hoff said using water pipes to smoke shisha, a common pastime in the Middle East, is 20 times more dangerous than cigarette smoking. That would make cigarettes 95 per cent safer than shisha which is obviously nonsense. There is a shortage of good evidence on the health risks of shisha but that doesn’t justify making stuff up.


Despite believing that cigarettes are much, much safer than shisha, it is cigarettes the WHO are going after, presumably because they can’t apply their risible plain packaging policy to waterpipes. Hoff urged Syrian officials to implement a ‘plain packaging’ approach for cigarettes to reduce their ‘attractiveness and glamour’.

If you ever doubted that the WHO has lost its way, here is the proof. It has been taken over by western idiots who obsess over micromanaging personal lifestyles and waging war on ‘Big Tobacco, Big Food, Big Soda, and Big Alcohol’ while the developing world literally burns.

Syria’s war is estimated to have killed several hundred thousand people amid the rise of the Islamic State group. But Dr. Ahmad Khlefawy, Syria’s deputy minister of health, said the war cannot be an excuse for Syrians to endanger their lives by consuming tobacco. We’ve gone well beyond parody here, folks.

The irony is that parts of Syria already have a very – what’s the word? – comprehensive tobacco control strategy in place already courtesy of the lads from Isis. Smoking is banned in territory controlled by Islamic State, with punishments ranging from whipping to execution. The anti-smoking teetotallers of Isis appear to be losing ground in Syria and Iraq. Perhaps that’s what the WHO is worried about?

This article originally appeared on Christopher Snowdon’s blog.  


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