Shocking finding about smoking prevalence in Qatar
September 21 2014 11:03 PM

The recent announcement by a senior official of Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), Qatar’s principal health care provider, that about 37% of the country’s residents above the age of 15 are smokers and 95% of them are men, reiterates the need to curb the unhealthy practice of smoking.

What was more shocking in this regard was the finding that around 15% of school children from grade 7, both male and female, aged 12 years and above, also smoke.

Dr Ahmed al-Mulla, head of the Smoking Cessation Clinic, also pointed out that many had the misconception that shisha smoking was harmless and clarified that the practice was ten times more harmful than cigarette smoking.

“In fact, one session of shisha smoking is known to have harmful effects equivalent to or higher than smoking 20 cigarettes,” he cautioned.

It was not long ago that a local study found an alarming exposure to second-hand smoke from cigarettes and shisha among pregnant Qatari women both inside and outside their homes.

The global prevalence of second-hand smoke among pregnant women shows Qatar in the third place at 80% after Greece (95%) and Jordan (82%).

The study, conducted among some 357 pregnant Qatari women between December 2011 and May 2012, found that 32.8% and 17.4% of their husbands smoke cigarette and shisha respectively. None of the women surveyed was a smoker.

The objectives of the study were to estimate the prevalence of smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke during pregnancy among Qatari women; and to estimate the level of knowledge of health risks and attitudes towards tobacco smoking among those women.

The World Health Organisation says tobacco causes more deaths than human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides and murders combined. Tobacco kills about 6mn people a year worldwide.

“Second-hand smoke exposure is linked to cancer, cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases and it is estimated to have caused more than 600,000 deaths in 2004 with 28% of those deaths among children and 47% among females, including pregnant women,” according to the WHO.

Meanwhile, the Smoking Cessation Clinic at the HMC has invited the public to take part in an ongoing clinical study on shisha use among smokers and non-smokers in an effort to examine the adverse effects of tobacco on the heart, blood vessels and the respiratory system.

The three-year study, which began in April 2013, is a collaboration between HMC and the American University in Beirut, supported and funded by Qatar National Research Fund.

The study targets tracking the negative influences of shisha smoking, through a specialised medical check-up for two categories of people in intervention and control groups, according to Dr al-Mulla.

The intervention group comprises those who have been smoking shisha every day for the past 10 years or more and have never smoked cigarettes and are 40 years-old and above.

Members of this group should never have had any lung disease, diabetes or kidney failure. Each group has up to 220 people, with a control group comprising non-smokers under 40 years-old and having the same health conditions as those in the intervention category.

It is hoped that the findings of this study would go a long way in dispelling the wrong notion that shisha is harmless. The message that all who use tobacco in one form or other should take to their hearts is that they are harming themselves and others.


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