Hamas Confiscates Painkillers, Cigarettes

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GAZA STRIP - The Palestinian faction controlling the Gaza Strip incinerated nearly two million Tramadol pills and confiscated cigarettes to impose taxes on them, The Associated Press reported.

Hamas Health Minister Basam Naim said the government seized an estimated 1.7 million pills from smugglers who bring the drugs in through the tunnels at the border with Egypt.

Tramadol, a strong painkiller generally sold over-the-counter, will be available by prescription only in Gaza. Though long-term after effects from the drug are rare, some users develop temporary flu-like symptoms when they stop taking it.

According to AP, the drug, which costs around $10.00 for eight pills, has become increasingly popular, with some users claiming it enhances their sexual prowess.

"The issue has reached the level at which some youth are addicted to this drug, and this makes them seek it out no matter what the cost," Naim told reporters invited to the Health Ministry where the drugs were being stored.

Following the press conference, reporters observed workers incinerating Tramadol delivered by the truckload to Gaza's largest hospital.

Several days earlier, Hamas security forces began seizing cigarettes from shops throughout the Gaza Strip.

Hamas, which recently banned smoking in government offices and in public, posted notices on government Web sites that Islam forbids smoking.

Since passing a law sanctioning Sharia (Islamic) law in the Gaza Strip, Hamas has been cracking down on residents who do not comply.

In July 2009, Hamas issued a Muslim dress code for women "to encourage people to be virtuous and to keep them away from sin," Hamas Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs Abdullah Abu Jarbou explained at the time.

"Sharia law is coming," Abu Jarbou said. "In the future, it's inevitable that it will be implemented."

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AP contributed to this report.

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