Dr Ahmad al-Mulla, head of the Hamad Medical Corp (HMC) Tobacco Control Centre, says Ramadan is an opportune time to quit smoking.
He says during the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast during daylight hours, which is currently around 14 hours a day in Qatar.
According to Dr al-Mulla, fasting has a lot of positive effects on one’s health, and those benefits are especially prominent in tobacco users who give up smoking.
“For smokers, quitting is often easier during Ramadan as believers are already required to abstain from food and drink, as well as from smoking cigarettes and using other tobacco products, for 14 hours,” says Dr al-Mulla.
“The positive health effects of quitting smoking begin 20 minutes after your last cigarette.
Your blood pressure and pulse will start to return to more normal levels.
Within eight hours, the body also begins to cleanse itself of the excess carbon monoxide from cigarettes and carbon monoxide levels in your body return to normal, increasing the body’s oxygen levels,” he adds.
Dr al-Mulla says within the first day of quitting, heart and brain function improves, with the risk of heart disease and stroke decreasing and a person’s blood pressure beginning to drop.
He says oxygen levels will also increase, improving energy and breathing function.
One’s sense of smell and taste will also improve, as nerve endings responsible for the senses of smell and taste begin to heal, he adds.
Dr al-Mulla says each year, in advance of Ramadan, the Tobacco Control Centre increases smoking cessation resources available to the public.
The Tobacco Control Center was officially designated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the first WHO Collaborating Centre in Qatar and the GCC.
“Each Ramadan, HMC’s Tobacco Control Centre receives hundreds of requests from new patients.
During March and April, we have received three times the number of requests from new patients seeking support to quit smoking, which was in part due to the relationship between more severe Covid-19 illness and tobacco use.
Through our telephone-based consultations and treatment, we are continuing to support those who wish to quit his harmful habit,” says Dr al-Mulla.
Dr Jamal Abdullah, smoking cessation specialist at HMC’s Tobacco Control Centre, says while Ramadan can make it easier for some people to quit smoking, heavy tobacco users who can go from smoking every two hours to not smoking for 14 hours, can experience withdrawal symptoms and should seek professional support.
“For many smokers, quitting is easier during Ramadan but to avoid the side effects of nicotine loss and help the process of quitting, smokers should consult with a cessation clinic and get medical advice on the best way to stop the habit,” says Dr Abdullah.
“Within eight hours of the last cigarette, carbon monoxide levels in the blood decrease by over 50%, which has positive health benefits but can also trigger withdrawal symptoms such as strong cravings, poor concentration, nerviness and headaches.
These symptoms are normally most pronounced during the first week of quitting.
Reading the Holy Qur'an and reciting 'Astaghfirullah' can help promote spiritual healing, which can help reduce some of the symptoms of withdrawal,” adds Dr Abdullah.
According to Dr Musallam Mesaed Musallam, smoking cessation specialist at HMC’s Tobacco Control Centre, patients who seek support at the Centre receive one-on-one counselling and appropriate nicotine replacement or pharmaceutical support, depending on their level of addiction.
Dr Arwa al-Awlaki, a community medicine specialist at the Tobacco Control Centre, says it is important for smokers to understand that chronic nicotine use results in a permanent increase in the number of receptors in the brain, which causes nicotine withdrawal symptoms and underscores the importance of seeking professional support, particularly for heavy smokers.
HMC clinical psychologist Dr Ashour Ibrahim says fasting motivates people to do good things and that the holy month of Ramadan is a great time to quit smoking, but he also stresses the importance of getting appropriate support.
He says both psychological sessions and behavioural therapy can be useful in treating nicotine addiction.
Make Ramadan the 'start of a life without smoking'
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has urged smokers to take advantage of the holy month of Ramadan to start a new "smoke-free" chapter in their lives.
"Because of fasting, you will manage to stay without smoking for 14 hours, which will help you in quitting," the MoPH has said in an advisory.
"During the fasting period, your body will get rid of nicotine and toxins as well as carbon monoxide.
Hence, we advise that you do not expose your body once you break your fast," it states.
For information on telephone-based smoking cessation services, one can contact 40254981 or 50800959.
People suffering from respiratory and pulmonary diseases cautioned
People suffering from respiratory and pulmonary diseases are not more vulnerable to Covid-19 but in case they get infected, they are likely to experience more severe symptoms and there could be chances of potential damage as well.
The observation was made by Dr Wasfy Hamad, consultant of lung diseases at Al Khor Hospital, Hamad Medical Corporation, while speaking to Qatar TV.
The degree of severity of the disease is related to the severity of the original respiratory ailment of the patient, he noted.
Accordingly, such people should take extra care to strictly follow all precautionary and preventive measures to avoid getting infected, Dr Hamad said. They should also keep taking their medication regularly and have enough stocks for at least two weeks.
The same applies to children suffering from asthma and other respiratory disorders.
He also urged smokers to quit in order to avoid weakening of their immune system, which will make them less vulnerable to the disease.
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