Dubai: Ahead of World No Tobacco Day, observed every year on May 31, health experts have called on smokers to quit tobacco to protect themselves as well as non-smokers from second-hand smoke.
Marked by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the day highlights health risks associated with tobacco use. The campaign theme for 2013 is ‘Ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship’.
The WHO states that tobacco kills nearly six million people each year, 600,000 of whom are non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke. Smoking causes cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, including coronary heart disease and lung cancer.
Quitting isn’t easy, experts told Gulf News, but it can be done once a smoker realises the health benefits of quitting and how to deal with nicotine addition.
So whether it is the ‘wake-up’ cigarette, the post-lunch one or the one before a stressful meeting, experts say a smoker has a good chance of quitting if they know how to go about it.
On a national level health authorities continue to intensify efforts against tobacco use.
The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) launched its Tobacco Free Dubai project in 2009 and its smoking-cessation helpline (800-123-QUIT) in 2012.
In 2011 the UAE Cabinet approved the anti-tobacco federal law stipulating the use of graphic warning images on tobacco products to deter smokers.
Apart from these measures, residents need to decide for themselves, said Dr Hanan Obaid, Tobacco-Free Dubai Project Leader and Acting Director of the Health Affairs Department, Primary Healthcare Services Sector at the DHA.
She said most smokers understand the harm associated with smoking, yet they continue because of the nicotine addiction or the psychological comfort smoking provides.
“Quitting tobacco is difficult because tobacco dependence is linked to a smoker’s behavioural, cognitive and psychological aspects. Further the nicotine in tobacco is addictive.
“To quit, a smoker must take a decision [to quit] and stick to it through various methods from setting a fixed date to quit to doing fun activities to distract from smoking and being positive. Smoking cessation can include counselling, medication and positive reinforcement,” said Dr Hanan.
It is important to find out the level of nicotine dependence before smoking cessation, said Dr Sreekumar Sreedharan, specialist physician at Aster Clinic, Dubai. “Tobacco users with severe dependence — either consuming tobacco within 30 minutes of waking up or consuming more than 20 cigarettes every day — need to seek medical help. A doctor will then advise a combination of approaches from counselling to medication,” he said.
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a smoker must make a list of why they want to quit.
Dr Nawar Tayara Sayed, specialist paediatric pulmonologist at Isis- The French Clinic, Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC), said the journey from being a smoker to a non-smoker starts when a person wants to quit.
“The single most important aspect is motivation. Then the person needs to understand the dangers of smoking, what it takes to quit — like battling nicotine withdrawal feelings — and making the needed positive lifestyle changes. It is also important to find a support network in the form of family and friends or even a psychologist if necessary,” said Dr Nawar.
She explained that the motivation can be varied — to be in control of your life or to raise children or simply to protect your health and the health of your family.