Dubai Expatriates May be Offered Quit Smoking Help

Expatriate smokers in Dubai may soon be offered help to quit smoking if the Ministry of Health plans go ahead.

According to newspaper reports in the region, the Ministry of Health in Dubai is contemplating providing expatriates with subsidized treatment at smoking cessation clinics in a bid to save millions in healthcare costs.

At present, the local population in Dubai is offered free assistance when they would like to give up smoking and there are now plans to increase this service provision to the expatriate population. According to reports, a senior official in Dubai disclosed the plans: “By including expatriates in the plan, millions of dirham spent on treating chronic diseases resulting from tobacco use could be saved,” said Dr Wedad Al Maidoor, head of the National Tobacco Control Committee at the ministry.

“The proposal has been submitted to the minister for approval,” she said, adding that it was the intention that the cessation treatment would be covered by health insurance: “If this is covered, a person will not spend more than Dh2,000 for a 12-week treatment as compared to millions spent on treating diseases resulting from tobacco use,” explained Dr Wedad.

While expatriates may not gain totally free access to smoking cessation services, they will be offered free follow-up consultations and treatment once they have paid for an initial batch of nicotine patches, which will be available at a subsidized rate. It is anticipated that the cost of one week’s patches will be approximately Dh50 (versus 100Dh in pharmacies) and treatment could be complete within 12 weeks.

Discussing the proposals, Dr Mahmoud Fikri, Assistant Undersecretary for Health Policies and Legislation at the ministry said implementing the policies would be in the best interests of the government: “The cost of cancer will keep increasing … this is the most cost-effective method to help people quit smoking,” he said.