Staff Reporter NEARLY all doctors working in primary health care (90 percent), agree that the level of social acceptance with regard to smoking is too high and would encourage non-smokers to claim their rights to enjoy a smoke-free environment.

Luis Aguilera, president of the Spanish Society of Family and Community medicine (Semfyc), presented ”No Smoking Week” yesterday, which is in force until next Monday, 31 May, when “World No Smoking Day” is celebrated.

Aguilera reported the results of an enquiry made amongst more than 100 doctors specialising in tackling the issue of smoking in Spain. They confirmed that some 40 percent of those interviewed believed that health warning messages printed on the sides of cigarette packets were ineffective.

One of the most difficult sectors of society to dissuade from smoking, says the study, is that of adolescents or young people, who may take up the habit to impress their peer groups. The more vociferous the campaign against tobacco, the more likely adolescents are to “dig their heels in” and resist. “No-smoking week” which is being spearheaded under the slogan “I'm giving it up today, as well”, is being supported by the Ministry of Health and between 2'000 and 2'500 health centres throughout Spain.

During this coming week, information on tobacco and how to live without it, are freely available from these centres. Members of the public who are serious in their attempts to renounce the habit, will be offered the possibility of access to special therapy which will help them down the road to a nicotine-free lifestyle.

In Spain, 34 percent of the population are still smoking, some 14 million people. Every year, nearly 55'000 deaths are registered as a direct result of this habit.

Tobacco is the drug responsible for causing the most numerous cases of illness and death. It is calculated that one in every 2 smokers will die as a result of some disease caused by the habit and that an average of 20 years will be lost from the lifespan.

Seventy percent of doctors believe that there should be more restrictive measures in place with regard to tobacco. Ninety-five percent, for example, are of the opinion that there should be more control in commercialisation and publicity and 90 percent consider that society should be less tolerant towards a habit that causes such serious health damage.

Francisco Camarelles, group coordinator for Semfym's fight against tobacco, said that only 5 percent of smokers give up the habit purely on the advice of their general practitioners. Nearly 50 percent of smokers, however, need psychological support as well as some kind of pharmaceutical product to boost their resolve to abandon cigarettes.

Nine regions of Spain are participating in the “No Smoking Week” campaign: the Canary Islands, the Balearics, Madrid, Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla y León, Navarra, Aragón, Valencia and Extremadura.

Family doctors and health care workers will offer information to anyone interested and for those who are evidently in need, treatment to “kick the habit” will be available.