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Abu Dhabi: Every six out of ten Emiratis are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke, and this increases their risk of suffering from cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer by 30 per cent, a top doctor said in the capital on Monday.

In fact, an average of 27 people die in the UAE every week from tobacco-related diseases, according to the fifth World Tobacco Atlas. This is why smoking is an important health concern that needs to be tackled, said Dr Iyaad Hassan, a tobacco treatment specialist, at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

“We know that smoking triples the risk of cardiovascular disease, and is often a direct risk factor for lung cancer. If this is not a motivation to give up the habit, we encourage people to quit so that they can protect their loved ones from the harmful effects of second-hand smoking,” Dr Hassan said.

“In fact, even the residue from a smoker’s clothes, known as third-hand smoke, can increase the risk of allergy and asthma for non-smokers who are regularly exposed to it,” he added.

Dr Hassan was speaking following the official launch of the clinic’s Smoke Cessation programme.

According to official statistics, 24.3 per cent of adult men and 0.8 per cent of adult women in the UAE are smokers.

“There are immediate benefits to quitting that can be felt within hours of stopping, like looking and feeling better. And just one year after quitting, the risk of a heart attack drops sharply. After two to five years, the risk of stroke drops to the same level as a non-smoker’s,” Dr Hassan said.

The doctor explained that the clinic’s programme is based on the Cleveland Clinic Ohio’s programme, which has a 20 per cent success rate, double the national average of other programmes in the United States. The programme follows smokers from their decision to quit through to life after smoking, creating a customised programme for each individual.

“We ensure four face-to-face meetings with the patient at the beginning to develop the programme, and encourage smokers to develop a personal resolve to quit that is not dependent on external motivation,” he said. There is also an added focus on helping patients avoid a relapse.

At present, the cessation programme sees mainly Emiratis who want to kick the habit.

“But we are working with insurance providers to get added coverage for expats who would like join the cessation programme,” Dr Hassan said.

There are currently 12 other smoking cessation clinics in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, including a number of others offered by private health care facilities. However, most insurance programmes held by expatriates do not cover cessation programmes.