Abu Dhabi: Tobacco smoking is on the rise affecting 14.4 per cent of the UAE population over the age of 15 of which 26.1 per cent are males and 2.6 per cent are females, according to a report published by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Nicotine is a highly addictive substance that results in extra energy, alertness and a rush for smokers. Giving up the habit results in withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia and cravings like eating and binging.

Recurring and nagging questions on why and how people take up the deadly habit and the common health-related conditions caused by smoking have been asked and addressed by experts and the general public.

However, the issue is persistent. Senior consultant and head of the Center for Heart Failure and acting chief quality officer at Shaikh Khalifa Medical City, Dr Samer Al Lahham spoke to Gulf News.

Social pressure

Many teenagers start smoking due to peer pressure. They may also smoke to feel more mature or as a form of rebellion against parental authority. Research shows that children are also more likely to smoke if their parents do, according to Al Lahham.

"Smoking is a social activity known as social smoking, many people smoke to start conversations and interact with others at parties or in crowded places.

Tobacco advertising also plays a big role in why people take up the habit. For years the industry has focused on making smoking seem glamorous, either through advertisements, movies, television or billboards. Other reasons include weight issues," said the consultant.

Staying thin especially among women also plays a major role. "The truth is smoking reduces the sense of taste so many people who smoke simply eat less because they don't enjoy food as much."

Smoking also produces psychological dependency, he said.
Many people smoke because it helps them relax and cope with difficult situations.

Others smoke due to boredom.

But the end result is that people who smoke are usually in denial — they know smoking is bad for their health but convince themselves it's not as terrible as they make it sound, said Al Lahham.