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Egyptian Agency Hiring Nonsmokers

August 22, 2000

CAIRO, Egypt (AP)_ Wanted: Nonsmokers only.

Egypt’s minister of health issued orders this week that his ministry will only hire and promote nonsmokers.

``How can you be hired in a place to cure people and you are harming them? This is a basic job description. It is no violation of personal freedom″, Sami Ghanem, director of the Health Ministry’s anti-smoking program, said in an interview Monday.

The step is part of a campaign against smoking that is an uphill battle in a country where smoking is common.

Ghanem, who himself gave up smoking only four years ago, said that a survey prepared by the ministry reports that 40 percent of adult male Egyptians and 8 percent of adult female Egyptians smoke. A 1995 World Health Organization report said the number of smokers in Egypt increased by 274 percent between 1963 and 1990.

WHO estimates that smoking kills more than 4 million people around the world every year, a figure that could rise to 10 million per year by 2030 because of increasing tobacco use in developing countries.

The Egyptian government’s campaign to reduce smoking started in 1977 when cigarette advertisement was banned from television. Later, smoking was banned on public buses.

The Health Ministry is working closely with other ministries to ``stimulate people’s thinking about the dangers of smoking, ″ Ghanem says.

The Ministry of Education forbade smoking in schools only last year. The Ministry of Transport announced this week that smoking in airports would be restricted to smoking areas only.

But at the same time, cigarette sales in Egypt are monopolized by the government-controlled Eastern Tobacco company, an important revenue-producer that is one of the largest cigarette manufacturers in the Middle East.

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