"No matter how paranoid or conspiracy-minded you are, what the government is actually doing is worse than you imagine." - - - William Blum

May 26, 2005


This from IRIN (emphasis added):

BAGHDAD, 25 May (IRIN) - Heath professionals in Iraq have warned of an increase in smoking-related lung disease caused by the sale of low quality cigarettes in the country. According to local officials, inferior cigarettes have affected particularly the young, who are unable to pay for better brands that are less harmful to health. Some cheap brands from unknown sources have gone on sale in the capital and according to specialists, they can seriously damage health.

Youssef Ahmed, 16, became very sick after smoking a new brand of cigarettes. Doctors say he has a serious lung disease caused by some kind of toxins found in the cigarettes. "My friends told me that the cigarettes were good and cheap," Ahmed told IRIN, after receiving treatment at a hospital in the capital, Baghdad.

Although there are no official figures on the number of smokers in the country, cigarettes are in high demand and sold everywhere to all age groups. Some brands, which were prohibited during Saddam Hussein's regime, are being sold without undergoing any tests according to sources.

Some types have never been heard of before, such as "DJ", which is sold for only US $0.15 cents per pack. Vendors in Baghdad markets stock the cigarettes but say they should have been tested. "People come to our shop offering cheap cigarettes and we stock them because they sell well and we are not responsible for carrying out the tests," Sinan Abdul-Klalak, a shop owner in Shorgia market, Baghdad told IRIN.

Raad Razak, chief of investigations on new products at the Ministry of Health (MoH) told IRIN that these cigarettes, as well as other products, are not being checked. He said that for laboratory tests to be carried out at the centre, they need to receive an order from a government ministry but added that very few items had been sent for testing since 2003. "We don't have the authority to check any food or other products without an order from the government with the exception of Iraqi products and for this reason bad quality supplies are entering Iraq and no one has opened their eyes to the health problems they can cause," Razak added.

The official inspected one of the inferior brand cigarettes given to him and after a few basic tests he said that the product was rotten inside and full of fungus. He said it had been covered in dried tobacco again to make it look like a new cigarette.

A senior official from the Iraqi border, who preferred not to be named for security reasons, told IRIN that no products entering Iraq were being subjected to testing. The official said that during Hussein's regime, products entering the country were kept at the border until tests had been done and results certified that they were safe for human consumption. Today, all border laboratories are closed and are being used to house Iraqi troops, he explained.

Dr Ahmed Deli, a spokesman for the Cancer Centre Studies (CSC)at the MoH, told IRIN that according to their reports, there has been an increase in smoking amongst young people in the country and a corresponding emergence of lung diseases. Deli added that since last year there had been a 20 percent increase in cancer cases, especially among young people and most were smokers of low quality cigarettes. "The new cigarettes which have been entering Iraq since last year contain a huge amount of tar and nicotine, which can cause higher levels of addiction. The government should take urgent action," he said.

Tar acts as a toxin when it occurs in large amounts. It can cause mental problems and the development of both lung disease and cancer. Tar is believed to release internal radiation which affects the normal body enzymes and causes a decrease in blood cells. Inferior quality cigarettes in Iraq contain more than seven percent tar; whereas the internationally accepted standard is less than six percent.

According to a survey released in September 2004 by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) there was a worrying increase in the number of youngsters smoking. Of respondents in the 12-14 age group, 31.7 percent said their peers were smokers and 55.9 percent in the 15-18 group were found to be regular smokers. Smoking was even more common in the 19-24 age group, where an estimated 67.4 percent smoke cigarettes and or cigars.

Withdraw the U.S. troops NOW.

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