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No one is safe from secondhand smoke, say experts in UAE

Ashwani Kumar /Abu Dhabi
ashwani@khaleejtimes.com Filed on January 30, 2020 | Last updated on January 30, 2020 at 05.22 am
shisha in uae, smoking, vat on cigarettes

(KT file)

'It affects your family, little kids around you'

Passive smokers, including children, experience the same health effects as those who smoke themselves, experts said. And when people smoke in one room, it does affect the children or non-smokers in another room, they added.

They also noted that the smoke from shisha - now a fad - is more dangerous to health than cigarettes, cigar and medwakh.

Dr Fathi Giurani, internal medicine and geriatrics specialist at Burjeel Medical City, said smoking-related health issues were similar for a smoker and a non-smoker.

"Millions die due to smoking-related diseases. And passive smokers aren't safe. If somebody smokes next to you, then you will inhale the same smoke and one from burning cigarette," he said, referring to passive smoke or secondhand smoke that combines smoke from a burning cigarette and the smoke exhaled by a smoker.

"Passive smoker will have same diseases as a smoker. Lung cancer, lung diseases including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cough and cold, dental problems, one of the risk factors for heart attack, blood clotting, high blood pressure, asthma, peripheral vascular disease, sclerosis, dementia and osteoporosis."

Giurani said secondhand smoke is harmful not just for pregnant women but for the babies in their womb, too.

"A pregnant woman and foetus will be affected if the husband - or anyone - smokes near her. There are reported cases of deformities. Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in children is related to smoke inhaled by the mother during pregnancy."

Experts have stressed that there's only one way to protect kids, pregnant women, and everybody else from the dangers secondhand smoke - and that is by completely "eliminating smoking in all homes, worksites, and public places".

Even those who refrain from smoking right in front non-smokers are putting others at risk because 'thirdhand smoke' is also believed to have health effects.

Andrea Leinberger-Jabari, assistant director, tobacco research, New York University Abu Dhabi, said: "There is a phenomenon called third hand smoking. Tobacco smoke is sticky. It sticks to surfaces, walls, furniture and clothing. When you smoke in an enclosed area, even as the smoke dissipates, it's still present in some way, like furniture.

"So taking smoking outside a confined area will be a better strategy to reduce exposure that non-smokers would have to tobacco smoke," she said.

However, certainly, going 100 per cent smokefree is still the best step to take, the experts said.

Shisha is worse than smoking cigarettes by "10 to 15 times", according to Dr Fathi Giurani, internal medicine and geriatrics specialist at Burjeel Medical City.

"A passive smoker will inhale more smoke from shisha than puffs from a cigarette. However, shisha smoking is fashionable now. It is difficult to stop it as the trend is spreading. There is more effort needed from governments," Dr Giurani said.

Andrea Leinberger-Jabari, assistant director for tobacco research at New York University Abu Dhabi, stressed that shisha at home also exposes children and non-smokers to even more harmful pollutants.

"Exposure to shisha smoke is up there in terms of harm because the volume that is generated is much greater than that of a cigarette, and definitely more than medwakh." she said.

Kids in next room unsafe, too

Pointing out an earlier study done by NYUAD Public Health Research Center, Leinberger-Jabari said: "Levels of carbon monoxide and other toxicants in rooms where shisha was smoked were five times higher than in rooms where cigarettes were smoked."

Even rooms adjacent to where shisha was smoked also had elevated bubbles of carbon monoxide. It was found to be nearly four times higher to rooms next to where cigarettes were smoked, she added.

"So even if people smoke in one room and children are in another room, they are still exposed to the effects of smoking. Even if children aren't in the room where shisha is smoked but maybe down the hall there were still levels of carbon monoxide and other toxicants."


. Hang 'no smoking' signs inside your home, car

. If you have guests who smoke, politely ask them to take it outdoors

. Keep doors, windows open for sometime

. Create more awareness among smokers



Ashwani Kumar

I am a newspaperman from the emirate of Abu Dhabi. A journalist at heart. I get my stories from the streets. A south Indian born in the Hindi heartland, I easily connect with people from different nationalities and cultures. I am calm like a monk, sensitive and very patient reporter. On the ground, I cover a range of topics related to community, health, embassy, tourism, transport, business and sports. I will go out on a leg to do what’s right and stand by what I believe in.

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