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Smoking witnessing 'remarkable increase in Gulf and Arab community'

Bahrain News
Sat, 10 Feb 2018
Raji Unnikrishnan

AN increasing number of non-smokers in Bahrain, including children, are at risk of second-hand smoke exposure, a new study has revealed.

The research conducted by Arabian Gulf University (AGU) also showed that 60 per cent of cancer cases are related to smoking, of which 90pc have been found could be avoided by quitting smoking.

Experts who analysed the research, which was compiled by medical students from the university, have also underlined the rising trend of smoking across the GCC, calling for a comprehensive prevention policy and awareness drive.

“The phenomenon of smoking is witnessing a remarkable increase in the Gulf and Arab community,” said AGU family medicine and society head Dr Afif bin Saleh.

“This calls for a comprehensive prevention policy which must include economic, legislative and awareness raising; we should derive this policy by employing innovative ways.

“The research by students has revealed that 60pc of cancer cases are related to smoking and 90pc of these cases and modern-day diseases such as heart diseases, artery and stroke can be avoided by quitting smoking and following good healthy habits such as healthy nutrition and exercise.”

A total of 180 medical students in their fourth year formed 17 teams to conduct the research on the use of tobacco, which was based on AGU’s research plan on health priority areas of the GCC.

AGU graduate studies and research vice-dean Dr Randah Hamdeh said the research showed that while manufactured cigarettes and traditional sheesha were common among Bahrainis, other types of tobacco have gained popularity such as e-cigarettes and electronic sheesha.

She explained that a trend has emerged in the country as smokers were taking up the habit at a younger age, leading to increased second-hand inhalation.

To tackle this phenomenon, Dr Hamdeh urged authorities to increase public awareness and adopt stricter legislation.

“The research that examined passive smoking indicated that a large proportion of non-smokers are exposed to inhaling other people’s tobacco smoke, including children,” she told the GDN.

“There is considerable knowledge of the hazards of cigarette smoking, and lack of knowledge with respect to the harmful effects of sheesha smoking.

“Although there is enough knowledge to support the notion that inhaling other people’s smoke is harmful and there is public awareness towards tobacco control legislation in the country, yet tobacco use continues to be a public health problem.

“These studies reinforce the role of parents, schools and universities in combating tobacco use as well as the need for further enforcement of tobacco laws and legislation along with raising the awareness of the harms of tobacco.

“Emphasis should be given in increasing the public attention to the availability of tobacco cessation clinics.”

The theme of the research was selected after it emerged that the latest population figures on tobacco use in Bahrain were published in the 2007 National Non-communicable Diseases Risk Factors Survey.

Of the 17 teams, eight groups conducted their study in Bahrain with four of them focusing on the prevalence of tobacco use in one of the governorates in the country.

The remaining groups determined tobacco use and knowledge of the health hazards of tobacco use among specific populations such as pregnant women, university students, and health professionals across the GCC.

Other topics involved in the study were passive smoking and its effect on health, relapse after tobacco cessation, and stigma towards smokers.

The findings of the study will be compiled in one report and will be considered as an update to the 2007 data.