« Smoking or health, the choice is yours »
I quit smoking by 30 June 2015, so promptly and with great conviction I posted Fadi’s article.
Next May 31, 2016 will be a no tobacco day, a campaign led by the
World Health Organisation (WHO). WHO always had close links with philately. WHO has always used postage stamps as a means of information, of raising awareness, of prevention and of commemoration. We take this opportunity to review anti-tobacco items in Lebanese philately.
Smoking is a major health problem in Lebanon. A recent epidemiological study showed that 57 % of respondents were smokers: 19% smoke cigarettes, narguileh 17% and 20% are mixed smokers. As regards the average age of smoking hookah, is around 35 years, knowing that most of them smoked their first narguileh at the age of 16.
Fig.1 Only Lebanese stamp where a narguileh is illustrated
Until recently, smoking nargileh was a pastime typically enjoyed by old people across the Arab world. Over the past 10 years, however, it has become a global phenomenon among young people with so-called hookah lounges popping up from San Francisco to Tokyo offering a variety of sweet and fruity flavors. Studies seems to confirm that women are more addicted to hookah than men. Surprisingly, when we study propaganda /advertising slogan from Lebanon on covers, we found that in 1972 the Lebanese post office issued a slogan in French and Arabic to aware citizens from the dangers of smoking. This slogan was a receival cancel in Beirut. One can conclude that this message was meant to the Lebanese.
Fig.2: Internal hotel cover from Broumana to Ajeltoun with Beirut anti-tobacco propaganda transit cancel on July 1972.
Fig.3: Incoming mail from Oman to Beirut, with anti-tobacco propaganda arrival cancel on October 1972
This slogan existed at least 4 months in 1972. A very limited duration. It was probably a national campaign because to the best of my knowledge there was no international campaign going on. Besides, other local Medias (press, TV) didn’t participate to this awareness program. No wonder then that positive results on prevalence of smoking behavior didn’t follow. But it had the virtue to exist! Lebanon was a precursor, not only in the Middle East but in the world. Very few countries initiated such a program at that time. Koweït has a similor initiative but in 1976. However, it should also be pointed out the Ras Al Khaima’s seal affixed by hand used in 1972, show in fig 5.
Fig.4: Outgoing cover from Kuwait to west-Germany with Arabic/English anti-tobacco propaganda.
Fig.5: Cover sent from Ras al Khaima to Cyprus with Arabic/English anti-tobacco propaganda seal.
The largest single issue of antismoking stamps appeared only in April 1980 when the World Health Day theme was “Smoking or health, the choice is yours”. Cardiovascular and respiratory disease (particularly lung cancer) were some of the most prominent topics in these issues all over the world.Lebanon was absent from this campaign probably due to the civil war that was going on. By publishing Law N°174 on March 7, 2006, Lebanon became a Party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco. On 2 August 2010 Libanpost issued two stamps promoting anti drug/cigarette addiction campaign (Fig. 6).
The stamps illustrate the principle and value of a visual message rather than text in a specific language in order to reach a great wilder public.
But will the message be understood???