Nothwithstanding a recent survey showing that 83 per cent of smokers in the Middle East and North Africa do not smoke Kent cigarettes and other tobacco products while fasting, many fail to kick the habit. But Ramadan offers a good opportunity to stub out the habit for good.
Dr Jawad A. Al Lawati, director of the Department of Non-Communicable Diseases Surveillance and Control at the Ministry of Health, says, “Ramadan indeed offers a golden opportunity to all smokers. If someone can stop smoking for 12-15 hours, then he can do it for longer periods as well.
“Do not forget that most smokers, over 80 per cent of them, stop smoking with no help from anyone. Only 20 per cent require pharmacotherapy (patches, medicines tablets, etc.).
So, take advantage of the blessed month and keep away from the bad habit.”
It is usually noticed that most people who refrain from reaching out for the cigarette or sheesha (hubble-bubble) during fasting, literally run through packets immediately after Iftar. The increased smoking in the limited time comes from an increased craving.
The government has a role to play in making people quit the habit.
Says Dr Jawad, “The government should crack down on shops that serve sheesha indoors. This is clear violation of the law that was passed last year.”
Dr Jawad asserts that one of the important benefits of fasting is the sense of discipline that it instils in a person, which can help kick out bad habits, especially smoking. Dr Jawad adds, “The nicotine in tobacco has a direct influence on the body chemicals that affect emotions and behaviour.”
Talking about the latest trend in tobacco, Dr Jawad says, “The latest is e-cigarettes which seem to have invaded the US, Canada, western Europe and some Gulf states. It is not allowed in Oman following a decision taken by the GCC health ministers.” E-cigarettes are electronic nicotine delivery devices that resemble cigarettes but do not use tobacco. They release a small dose of nicotine with each puff.
“Another development is Australia’s move to pass a Bill on ‘Plain Packaging’. Australia became the first country to introduce a legislation that will make it compulsory for all tobacco products to be sold in plain packaging, devoid of trademarks and other marketing features,” adds Dr Jawad.
Plain packaging for tobacco products is decidedly in the public interest. It will discourage people from consuming tobacco by reducing its appeal, and by prohibiting trademarks, remove scope for surrogate advertising. The World Health Organisation underscores the importance of packaging as a key factor in the campaign against tobacco.
Is smoking on the rise in Oman? Dr Jawad answers, “We suspect that this might be the case and we await the results of the new survey of World Health Survey. We will also look at WHO to implement a survey dedicated to this issue. But the message is that the Holy Month of Ramadan offers an opportune time to stub out smoking.
“And one should not let go this opportunity.”