UNRWA Goes 100% Smoke-Free for First time

JERUSALEM, May 31, 2015 (WAFA) – The United Nations relief AND Works Agency (UNRWA) on Sunday introduced an Agency-wide smoking ban across all its installations.

Starting today, the international organization said it instituted a ban on smoking and the use of any tobacco products on all UNRWA premises – indoor and outdoor – except for designated smoking areas.

UNRWA Director of Health Akihiro Seita said the move was in line with World Health Organization and General Assembly recommendations. He noted that UNRWA has been moving towards being smoke-free since 2006, when smoking was banned inside buildings and UNRWA vehicles, but allowed outside buildings.

“UNRWA is now extending its current policy to include banning smoking outside buildings too,” he said. “Our decision to go smoke-free will allow us to provide a non-smoking environment to the Palestine refugees who use our services at schools, health centers, community centers and all other UNRWA buildings. There is great support from Palestine refugees because smoking and related diseases are one of the leading causes of death among the refugee communities.”

“There is also a great deal of support from UNRWA staff. I really hope those who still smoke will consider modifying their smoking behavior, or even will stop smoking, as it is a major health risk and affects non-smokers also.”

Staff found violating the directive will be subject to incremental disciplinary measures, the UNRWA said. The ban will also apply to visitors to UNRWA premises.

Commenting on the smoking ban, Deputy Commissioner-General Sandra Mitchell said, “In addition to the health benefit for individuals, which is the main purpose of the no smoking policy, we will hopefully see a reduction in health-related staff absences.

“Healthy staff can only be good for UNRWA and our beneficiaries. So my hope is that in all respects, our staff members and the Agency as a whole will be fitter and healthier,” he said.