|14 July, 2019

Almost half of Emirati men are smokers, study finds

According to the research, the UAE has a higher prevalence of CVD risk factors than developed countries

Image used for illustrative purpose. A smoker holds his cigarette while standing next to an ashtray at a smoker's corner near the soccer stadium in Wolfsburg, Germany, April 6, 2016.

Image used for illustrative purpose. A smoker holds his cigarette while standing next to an ashtray at a smoker's corner near the soccer stadium in Wolfsburg, Germany, April 6, 2016.

REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

The prevalence of smoking is still high among Emirati men and is a key cause of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) among them, a new study has found. The nine-year study, which was released recently in BMC Cardiovascular Disorders, said smoking is among the "modifiable risk factors that should be managed aggressively".

The first study of its kind featured 977 Emiratis aged over 18 years - including 492 women - who did not have any history of CVD or its risk factors. Three medical researchers from the UAE, including Dr Saif Jaber Al Shamsi from the UAE University, were part of the project.

The study revealed that 42 per cent of Emirati men were smokers, with majority smoking dokha with a medwakh pipe. Researchers noted these were more harmful than smoking cigarettes.

Previously, a health screening study done in Abu Dhabi in 2016 showed that almost 30 per cent of Emiratis in their thirties smoked medwakh. Dokha is a traditional form of Arabic tobacco. After laws governing the sale of cigarettes and shisha were tightened in 2012, with shops facing hefty fines if they sold to those under 18, many youngsters turned to smoking dokha.

According to the research, the UAE has a higher prevalence of CVD risk factors than developed countries. The prevalence of deaths associated with CVD among UAE nationals is higher than the global average. CVD, the study said, is a major health threat in the UAE.

"Among high-risk UAE nationals who did not have any history of CVD, the risk factors were associated with high systolic blood pressure, a low estimated glomerular filtration rate, and poorly controlled diabetes," the study noted.

Research results showed that compared to non-smokers, men with a history of smoking had a significantly higher risk of CVD. Cigarette smoking negatively influences other traditional cardiovascular risk factors.

The research also indicated that high blood pressure, diabetes and poor kidney function were leading to heart attacks and strokes.

Health risks

Dr Mohammed Aiman, a cardiologist at an Abu Dhabi hospital, said people smoking cigarettes, dokha or medwakh were at a "great risk" of developing diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, heart diseases and cancer.

"Millions of warnings have been issued about the great dangers of smoking but it's absurd that a great number of people in the UAE are still smoking," he said.

"Tobacco smoke is incredibly harmful to a person's health. There's no safe way to smoke. Replacing your cigarette with a cigar, pipe, dokha or medwakh won't help you avoid the health risks."

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