Calls on need for more medical intervention to help smokers quit
By Diana Marwan Al-Jassem
World Cancer Day was celebrated around the world last Thursday as smoking reaches alarming levels in the Kingdom. The focus of a number of health professionals and officials now, is to helps smokers kick the habit.
Saudi Gazette spoke to Dr. Sami Badawood, the Director of Jeddah’s Health Affairs Management and he indicated that establishing health centers to rehabilitate smokers might be an important component of any nationwide plan.
“Establishing centers that provide support and care for smokers looking to quit is considered an important aspect of the program. We have already got a number of specialized centers that provide smokers with a quitting plan as well as the correct ways to stop smoking,” he stated. However, he added that there are is no demand for such centers because smokers largely ignore the benefits or importance of this “behavioral rehabilitation.” Dr. Badawood also expressed concern about shisha and the importance of focusing on shisha addicts and how to help them quit. “Smoking shisha is also an increasing phenomenon but we do not currently have rehabilitation centers for shisha smokers,” he said. Again, the problem seems to be little demand for such help.
“The only solution to curb this phenomenon is to ban smoking in public places such as malls, restaurants, airports, and gardens,” Dr. Badawood added. “This is in addition to imposing a fine on those who are smoking both cigarettes and shisha.”
The Ministry of Health has issued regulations in October last year that bans smoking in public places and has established a fine of 200 riyals for those who ignore this.
According to officials from the ministry who spoke to Saudi Gazette about the new decision, the Council of Ministers will discuss the issue in its next meeting.
Saudi Gazette spoke to a number of smokers who have tried quitting before and have failed. “Every year the decision to stop smoking is one of the first I take but after a few weeks of depression and anger, I tell myself that I can smoke one cigarette a week, which becomes one a day and then one pack a day,” said Abdullah Al-Zahrani, a 35-year-old Saudi teacher who has been smoking since adolescence.
Though there are a significant number of women who smoke, those whose husbands, brothers and fathers smoke, rarely do so themselves. Many of them confessed to tirelessly asking the smoker to drop the habit. “I always ask my husband to stop smoking because of the adverse effect on his health,” said Noura Tal’at, a Syrian medical student in Jeddah. “However, another reason is become I like being clean myself and having a clean and nice-smelling home, so I ask my husband to not smoke at home. When I was pregnant, I became very angry with him and asked him not to sleep in our room or sit next to me, which caused a lot of hostility between us.”
Doctors need to intervene
Saudi Arabia is spending 12 billion Saudi riyals annually on importing cigarettes, says Dr. Ashraf Abdulqaiuom Amir - a family medicine consultant in Jeddah in - who warned that the number of smokers in the Kingdom is rising continuously in a statement last week.
He emphasized that there is a need for doctors to play a larger role in getting smokers to quit the habit, since their role has previously contributed about five percent to the process. “The doctor’s role will become more important as the rate of smokers increases, and medical professionals need to approve a new plan to fight this phenomenon through clinical and psychological means,” he added. The rationale behind this is that most smokers attempt to quit smoking a number of times during their life but this is never overseen by a doctor or specialist, which Dr. Amir thinks is the main reason why such attempts fail. He also spoke in detail of the many steps smokers normally take to drop the habit.
The smoker also - unknowingly - goes through several medical stages when he or she tries to quit smoking.
“When the smoker stops smoking, the nicotine in the blood decreases and makes the smoker experience mood swings, anger, depression, and even physical pain,” he remarked. “When smoking is resumed, the smoker feels relief, comfort and happiness.” Since smoking has become a worrying public health issue, a number of official reports and health organizations in the Kingdom have called for a well-developed program that includes medical, social and psychological aspects to be considered in helping smokers kick the habit.
réf : Saudi Gazette,13 feb 2010.