Say no to smoking on ‘World Tobacco Day’
Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: It is ‘World No Tobacco Day’ today. So say no to cigarettes and tobacco. And if you are struggling with it, take inspiration from these regular smokers who decided to quit and in the process better their life-style and get fit.

According to a recent World Health Organisation (WHO) report, tobacco kills more than 7 million people each year. Of this, more than six million deaths are a result of direct tobacco use while around 890,000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.

Closer home, the numbers are alarming as well.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Smoking, smoking accounts for 80 to 90 per cent of the cause for lung cancer. The study revealed there are at least 150 new cases of patients with lung cancer diagnosed in the UAE, 40 to 50 per cent are in advanced stage.

So when we listen to people who were chain smokers and gave up smoking, we are taken up by their cause. Take a look at their experiences and how they have been able to stay away from tobacco.

Khaled Sharrouf, 30, Lebanese, smoked his last cigarette on August 28 last year. He had just returned from a holiday with family, friends and decided to give it a go at quitting smoking.

Having been a chain smoker for ten long years, Sharrouf was under pressure from family and friends – who had the best interest in him - to give up his habit of smoking cigarettes. And he would do at least half a packet every day.

Sharrouf, however, always brushed away the thought of giving up smoking. But one day, he just made up his mind to give it all up. And it was not easy for this marketing executive, a former Dubai resident, now living in Amsterdam.

“I just decided to give it a try one day.”

Scanning through his library of books he was delighted to get hold of one authored by Jan Guertz. The book titled “Quit smoking in one day,” is said to have inspired him to give up smoking.

“A friend had given me this book in 2017 but it went into my stack of book collections unread. But that day was different and I decided to give it a read after all.”

“I finished reading the book in three days and I knew that it was time for me to give up on cigarettes. I cannot say it was easy doing it, it was hard for sure, but I was glad to stick with my decision. I am really proud that I have not touched a cigarette ever since,” he added.


“One of the biggest challenges of turning into a non-smoker is overcoming the temptation to smoke. Not that it was an addiction for me, but it was definitely a habit. Every day I would spend a certain amount of time with friends smoking cigarettes. So suddenly when I stopped, I did not know what to do with that extra time. Then there was also the issue of dealing with the urge of feeding nicotine into the body,” said Sharrouf.

“During my initial phase of weaning, I starting having coffee to substitute it with cigarettes.

“People smoke for two reasons – to beat stress or when they are in the company of friends who all like to enjoy a drag. According to the book this is placebo. Cigarettes do practically nothing to relieve your stress or help you enjoy your party better with friends who smoke. All you need is a strong mind to say no to smoking,” said Sharrouf.

Dubai expat Robert Webling, 44 too has been tobacco free since eight years. The South African said his reasons for giving up smoking were totally personal and he is glad he did it. Webling, who was grossly overweight simply wanted to get fit. It was also around the time when his wife was pregnant with their first child and Webling did not think twice to quit smoking.

He added thanks to his fitness regimes which kept him mentally and physically pre-occupied, it was easier for him to keep away from cigarettes.

“The real trick is that a smoker should never give up cigarettes after coming under pressure from someone. You should be the most important reason for giving up smoking. If you do it for someone else the effort to give up smoking fails.”

He added a good support structure is critical to a smoker trying to give up on cigarettes. “Family and friends must be sensitive about your situation. For example the way they can help is that if you are in the company of smokers, it will greatly help if others do not smoke around you. They can always step out and smoke elsewhere. I remember, in my case I avoided visiting friends in cafés and restaurants as I knew they would be smoking.

“Forget patches, pills or other nicotine release gimmicks. Just stop taking any of these things. Work on your mind. That is all,” said Webling.”

For Indian expat Vincent Mendonza, the journey to giving up smoking was rather smooth. “Four years ago he gave up smoking during lent, the period preceding Easter, devoted to fasting, abstinence, and penitence by Christians. I kept on with my fasting ever after Lent had ended. I have not touched a cigarette since.”

“It is all about having a strong will power. If you have it and you really want to give up smoking, it can happen. For me personally I immersed myself in my job so I was not distracted and reminded about smoking cigarettes.”

“You will die at 65” - a first person account

By Yousra Zaki, Web Features Editor

Dubai: On a sunny day in Toronto, my brother, my dad and I were walking to the mall. My brother is a doctor. An internal medicine practitioner. He works with diseased people. Patients who tend to be older and dealing with chronic and sometimes fatal illnesses. As we were walking, my dad lights up a cigarette. My brother, Ahmed, looks at him intently.

Dr. Ahmed is a practised physician, who knows about bedside manner, but doctors can sometimes be very blunt, especially with the people, they love the most.

“Do you know what one of my skills are, as an internal medicine practitioner?” Ahmed asks my dad. “I can look at someone, ask them five questions about their lifestyle, and roughly determine when they are going to die naturally,” he said. “I estimate your lifespan at 65 years old.”

I turned to my brother, shocked that he could say something this harsh to our father. “You are my family, so I will not sugar-coat any of what I am about to say to you. If you continue smoking, working long hours and eating unhealthy, you are going to die in about seven years.”

“The thing about smoking is that you usually don’t feel the effects while you are young. You just crave nicotine and smoke one pack a day. You may cough after a few years and have some headaches when you haven’t smoked in a while, but that’s it really. If you are lucky enough to avoid lung cancer, then the effects will hit you when you become a senior citizen. I come across people every day on their sick bed, who can’t breathe properly. Do you really know what it feels like when you can’t get air into your lungs? It’s a form of torture that no medicine can alleviate. We may give the patients some morphine to take some of the discomfort away. When the patient says to me, that they cannot breathe properly, the only thing that is on my mind is that they did this to themselves.

They are the ones who damaged their lungs and there is nothing they can do about it now. Smokers have so much information and knowledge about the harm that cigarettes do to the body. Some of our patients who require an organ donation here in Canada are moved down the organ donor list, because they are smokers. As a result, they have fewer chances to heal their bodies.”

My father listened quietly, without making a comment.

“Do you know how lonely hospital life is?” he asked. “Most patients who are here for an extended period of time hardly get any visitors. For the first month, friends and family come and see them. Then, less and less people care. Truly care. The only person who comes to see you will be your spouse. Others have to get on with their lives. All of your friends who smoke with you, and encourage you to smoke with them, will not be there next to you if you are sick and suffering.”

“You have worked so hard during your youth, so you can enjoy another 15 to 20 years of your life, rather than spending them in the hospital unable to breathe. Don’t die and leave mom alone.”

You can’t go back in time to undo all the harm that’s been done to your lungs, but you can stop today, eat better, move more and live longer to enjoy your retirement.

Dr. Redha Souilamas, department chair of thoracic surgery - Cleveland Clinic, Abu Dhabi, said the medical facility has introduced a new lung screening programme for early detection of cancer. He said cigarette smoking is one of the biggest reasons for lung cancer in the world and took the opportunity of World No Tobacco Day to raise awareness on the ills of smoking.

Dr. Souilamas, regarded a pioneer in the UAE for conducting four lung transplants in the capital said the clinic will be launching a ‘low dose CT scan to screen patients with high risk of cancer.”

He said the clinic is in touch with relevant authorities to ensure patients older than 50 years of age and with a history of cancer – typically putting them in high cancer risk – will have to mandatorily get themselves check in at the clinic for the screening.

“The idea is to help patients get an early diagnosis.”

The programme titled ‘Multimodality Hybrid lung cancer management’ will screen patients in one day, using a low dose of CT scan on people.