UAE: Over 50% of men won't quit smoking despite risks, finds study

Dangers facing those with the habit include heart diseases, lung cancer, diabetes, among others

By Ismail Sebugwaawo

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Published: Wed 17 Nov 2021, 3:38 PM

More than 50 per cent of men are unwilling to quit smoking despite an increased risk of heart disease, lung cancer, diabetes and other horrors, a recent survey in the UAE has revealed.

However, about 48 per cent of men who admitted to smoking in a heart health survey by Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, say they would consider quitting due to the increased risk of heart attack.

Lifestyle studies in the UAE show that about 24 per cent of men in the country are smokers, with the highest prevalence among males aged between 20 and 39 years of age. New data from Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi shows that a third of all patients treated for a major heart attack at the hospital in the last three years were smokers or former smokers, with a majority of them being men.


Nearly 90 per cent of lung cancer cases at the hospital were also caused by smoking. Other long-term damages caused by smoking include an increased risk of stroke and brain damage, respiratory diseases, including asthma and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), eye disease, diabetes and reproductive issues.

"Smoking harms almost all organs of the body and takes away several years of a patient's life," said Dr Zaid Zoumot, Section Head of Pulmonology at the Respiratory Institute, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. "It is one of the most common causes of preventable death worldwide. In the UAE, people are not only addicted to cigarettes, but they have access to other forms of tobacco too such as sheesha and medwakh, which are equally harmful. This is a growing concern, especially among the youth."

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, which is designated as the official lung cancer screening center for Abu Dhabi, says it was raising awareness about health issues among men as part of its annual men's health campaign 'MENtion It' this month.

The public is being encouraged to adopt healthier lifestyles and visit a doctor to discuss medical concerns or for regular checkups. Patients between the ages of 55 and 75 with a history of smoking cigarettes, sheesha or medwakh, are in particular being advised to get screened for lung cancer and heart issues.

"Even more problematic is the lack of awareness on how casual tobacco use can lead to dependency and that even at a young age smoking can rapidly impact health negatively. This is one of the reasons why we are seeing a high number of young people with cancer and heart disease in the UAE," he adds.

Dr Zoumot said people get addicted to nicotine in the tobacco, which contains several cancer-causing chemicals. When a person smokes tobacco, they are exposed to damaging components, including tar that affects the lung tissue, carbon monoxide that reduces oxygen supply to various organs and oxidizing chemicals that damage the heart muscles and blood vessels.

"Nicotine rapidly increases the amount of harmful fats, which include LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood and reduces the amount of HDL or good cholesterol, greatly increasing a smoker's risk of heart disease and stroke. Smoking between one and five cigarettes a day significantly increases the risk of a heart attack," said Dr Zoumot.

Not just that, smoking also increases the amount of insulin resistance in the body, increasing the chances of type 2 diabetes. Smokers are also more prone to respiratory infections than non-smokers.

"Men must also consider the impact of smoking on their reproductive health. Smoking constricts blood vessels and can contribute to erectile dysfunction and fertility issues."

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi's Smoking Cessation Program has a multidisciplinary team of experts that employ a four-step holistic system to help smokers quit. "A person who quits smoking will immediately see a change in their health. Within 20 minutes after quitting, their blood pressure and heart rate falls and in a year they will have halved their risk of having a heart attack and lung cancer," said Dr Zoumot.

Here are five tips to quit smoking:

Create a quit plan: You'll be more inclined to quit and stay smoke-free if you know your reason for quitting, such as your family or risk of diseases. Then pick a date and work towards cutting down the number of cigarettes

Lean on loved ones: Take the support of family and friends to keep you on track as you work towards quitting. Divert your attention by calling or meeting or organising an activity with them when the urge strikes

Seek medical advice: Consult a physician who will be able to assess your health and suggest tests, diet and lifestyle changes and medicines that can help you to successfully quit. Join a Smoking Cessation Programme for ongoing support in your journey

Avoid triggers: Change your routine to avoid temptations that make you crave tobacco. If you do have a craving, try having a healthy snack or herbal tea instead

Focus on diet and fitness: Eating nutritious foods and having an exercise regimen will help keep your energy levels up, reduce stress and prevent withdrawal symptoms


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