King Hussein Cancer Foundation and Center (KHCF/KHCC) award the first round of the ‘Smoke-Free Zone Certificate’

Under the patronage of HRH Princess Ghida Talal, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the King Hussein Cancer Foundation, and with the attendance of HRH Princess Dina Mired, Director General of King Hussein Cancer Foundation, the “Smoke-Free Zone Certificate” was awarded earlier this month to qualifying Jordanian organizations. This initiative aims to create an incentive for local organizations to enforce smoke-free environments, and enlist these organizations as advocates for better enforcement of smoke-free laws at the national level. In parallel to enforcing smoking bans, the initiative seeks to educate and raise awareness of organizations and the public about smoke-free policies, their benefits, and best practices in that field. This initiative was launched with support from Global Smoke-free Worksite Challenge.

The first round (2014) was open to restaurants and cafes, schools, hospitals, companies, and commercial complexes and malls. To qualify for the certificate, organizations needed to meet the eligibility criteria in which they must be smoke-free (indoors) since inception or for a minimum of nine months, as well as report enforcement at a minimum of 85%. Organizations underwent a thorough process and were assessed based on examining their application forms (assessing the process and outcomes of enforcing a smoke-free policy) and through confirming status with onsite visits. All organizations receiving the certificate signed a pledge committing to maintaining their status and policies, and to raising awareness on combating smoking in Jordan.

A total of 40 applications were received of which 30 organizations were eligible to receive the ”Smoke-Free Zone Certificate”. Some of the applicants reported very creative methods for raising awareness within their respective organizations; others reported various levels of offering assistance to smokers to quit. As part of their application form, and when responding to the question ‘Does the organization commit -as deemed fit- to promoting a smoke-free culture in Jordan?’, several organizations provided very creative ideas that can be employed as part of a comprehensive strategy to work with the private sector on advancing compliance with the public health law.

This initiative builds on the understanding of the situation in Jordan. The Status Quo of Tobacco Control in Jordan Report  (issued by KHCF/KHCC in Sept 2013) provides a summary of the levels of exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS) among Jordanians, and an understanding of the strong support from the Jordanian public for smoking bans in various locations. In parallel, the report highlights gaps in Jordanian legislation (and its enforcement) as it pertains to protection from exposure to SHS. Stipulated by the Public Health Law which was passed in 2008, smoking bans are weakly enforced in Jordan. The Global Tobacco Control Report depicts weak enforcement and little progress since 2008. However, the past few years have witnessed growing interest and demand from the public and civil society for the enforcement of smoke-free laws and smoking bans. In parallel, starting with the 2012-2013 cycle, the King Abdullah Award for Institutional Excellence – through lobbying by KHCC- upgraded excellence criteria for the public sector to encourage enforcing a smoking ban at the workplace and promoting a smoke-free culture in the local community. This initiative, the “Smoke-Free Zone” Certificate, builds on interest and support from individuals, and comes to complement previous national achievements in that area.

Moving forward, the interest and commitment of certified organizations can be leveraged to strengthen a culture of protection from exposure to SHS in Jordan. From mentoring and twinning, to creative communication methods, to support for employees intending to quit, the certified organizations are poised to change the status in Jordan. Globally, the certification program can serve as a model for other countries.

About the Author: Rasha Bader is Head of Planning and Project Management at the Cancer Control Office at KHCC and is the Operations Manager for Global Bridges in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.