Worrisome trends but also welcome moves regarding smoking in MENA

Percentage of people who smoke in Arab world varies from 20% in Bahrain, Egypt to 31% in Tunisia, 34% in Kuwait and 35% in Lebanon.


2016/08/21 Issue: 69 Page: 6


The Arab Weekly
Editorial



Saudi Arabia has introduced a total ban on smoking in public places and the United Arab Emirates is expected to do the same by the end of the year. These are welcome developments in an Arab world where tobacco consump­tion should be a major concern.

According to the Tobacco Atlas, tobacco consumption in countries of the eastern Mediterranean has increased by more than a third since 2000.

The percentage of people who smoke in the Arab world varies from 20% in Bahrain and Egypt to 31% in Tunisia, 34% in Kuwait and 35% in Lebanon. Egypt is by far the largest tobacco market in the region with 19 billion cigarettes smoked annually.

Tobacco kills tens of thousands each year in the Arab world. A recent study in Tunisia blamed smoking for 90% of lung cancer cases, 80% of acute respiratory illnesses, 75% of heart attacks and 25% of all cardiovascular-related deaths just in that North African country.

A particularly worrisome trend is the rise in smoking among children, teenagers and especially among young women. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the rate of tobacco consump­tion among school-age girls is estimated at 26.8% in Syria, 27.7% in the Palestinian territories and 54% in Lebanon.

The increase in smoking among young people is related to the fraying family structure in much of the Arab world as conditions created by war and displacement as well as by generational change make parental supervision increasingly difficult.

For young smokers, the risks are compounded. Tobacco addiction can lead to juvenile delinquency for children who cannot afford the cost of their addiction and smoking from an early age seriously increases tobacco’s long-term health risks.

Smoking among school age children and young women is associated with the popularity of water pipes (also known as hookah or shisha).

According to the WHO, 14% of young male teenagers (13-15 years old) and 9% of young female teenagers in the Eastern Mediterranean region consume water pipe tobacco and smokeless cigarettes. The popularity of shisha among Arab women is closing the previous smoking gap between men and women: Female consumption of non-tobacco smoking products (shisha and smokeless tobacco) is more than 30% in Lebanon and 20% in the UAE. More young people and women are using water pipes under the assumption that water pipe smoking is less harmful than cigarettes.

In reality, water pipe tobacco has higher nicotine levels than cigarettes and contains toxins proven to cause lung and heart disease as well as cancer. Shisha also is blamed for the transmission of viruses and respiratory diseases.

A one-hour water pipe session results in inhaling 100-200 times the volume of smoke of one cigarette.

In war-stricken areas such as Syria, according to the WHO: “Many youths, women and school-age children have taken to shisha smoking believing that it is fashionable and less harmful than cigarettes.”

Many among the millions of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries, often unable to find work, spend much of their day smok­ing.

We can add to the many challenges facing the Arab world today the urgent need for smoking awareness campaigns, geared especially towards young people and including warnings over the use of water pipes to dispel the notion that it is harmless. Public health should not be ignored, even in times of war and upheaval.


As Printed
MENA Now
Editors' Picks

The Arab Weekly Newspaper reaches Western & Arabic audience that are influential as well as being affluent.

From Europe to the Middle East,and North America, The Arab Weekly talks to opinion formers and influential figures, providing insight and comment on national, international and regional news through the focus of Arabic countries and community.

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Publisher and Group Executive Editor: Haitham El-Zobaidi, PhD

Editor-in-Chief: Oussama Romdhani

Managing Editor: Iman Zayat

Deputy Managing Editor and Online Editor: Mamoon Alabbasi

Senior Editor: John Hendel

Chief Copy Editor: Richard Pretorius

Copy Editor: Stephen Quillen

Analysis Section Editor: Ed Blanche

East/West Section Editor: Mark Habeeb

Gulf Section Editor: Mohammed Alkhereiji

Society and Travel Sections Editor: Samar Kadi

Syria and Lebanon Sections Editor: Simon Speakman Cordall

Contributing Editor: Rashmee Roshan Lall

Senior Correspondents: Mahmud el-Shafey (London) & Lamine Ghanmi (Tunis)

Regular Columnists

Claude Salhani

Yavuz Baydar

Correspondents

Saad Guerraoui (Casablanca)

Dunia El-Zobaidi (London)

Roua Khlifi (Tunis)

Thomas Seibert (Washington)

Chief Designer: Marwen Hmedi

Designers

Ibrahim Ben Bechir

Hanen Jebali

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Contact editor at:editor@thearabweekly.com

Subscription & Advertising: Ads@alarab.co.uk

Tel 020 3667 7249

Mohamed Al Mufti

Marketing & Advertising Manager

Tel (Main) +44 20 6702 3999

Direct: +44 20 8742 9262

www.alarab.co.uk

Al Arab Publishing House

Kensington Centre

177-179 Hammersmith Road

London W6 8BS , UK

Tel: (+44) 20 7602 3999

Fax: (+44) 20 7602 8778

Follow Us
© The Arab Weekly, All rights reserved