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JustHere | November 15, 2017

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Qatar’s fuming: Cigs, shisha & the havoc that it wrecks

Qatar’s fuming: Cigs, shisha & the havoc that it wrecks

Just a third of those who seek help to quit smoking, actually manage to. And if you think your shisha habit is more socially acceptable, think again!

The estimated number of patients visiting the smoking cessation clinic at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is around 850-1000 annually. But only 38% are successful in quitting smoking.

According to Qatar Statistics Authority, 36% of the population are smokers. Among Qataris, 30% of males and 1.2% of females use tobacco products.

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Qatar’s No Smoking Policy

At present, the anti-smoking law (Law No. 20 of 2002) prohibits smoking in various types of closed public places such as buses, clubs and commercial centers. The law also prohibits selling cigarettes, tobacco and its derivatives within a distance of less than 500 metres of schools and other educational or training institutions.

However, this is not implemented strictly, and one can frequently see people smoking in cafes inside malls.

Have you tried complaining to authorities?

What are your thoughts on no smoking policy and its implementation? Talk to us.[/boxify]

There is no new data available on the age group distribution, but based on figures by HMC in 2000, majority of smokers belonged to the 21-30 age group.

Age Group Percentage
15-20 18%
21-30 39.5%
31-40 27.2%
41-50 12%
Over 50 3.1%

According to Dr. Ahmad Mohd. Al Mulla, Senior Consultant, Public Health & Disease Control Head, Smoking Cessation Clinic oh HMC, the most common reason why his patients start smoking is due to peer pressure while most youngsters say they pick this habit if a parent at home is a smoker.

Tobacco and its effects

Cigarettes are not the only tobacco product available in the market. Other commonly used tobacco products are shisha, pipe, cigar and smokeless tobacco.

In fact, a single shisha session is more harmful than smoking a single cigarette, says Dr Al-Mulla.

Here’s a comparison of the toxin content between the two.

Chemical Shisha Cigarette ComparisonShisha to cigarette
Tar 802mg 22.3mg 36 times the tar
Nicotine 2.96mg 1.74 mg 1.7 times the nicotine
Carbon monoxide (CO) 145mg 17.3mg 8.4 times the CO

Source: Shishadeh & Saleh (2005) food and Chemical Toxicology Vol 43 (5): 655-661 Djordjevic et al (2000) Journal of National Cancer Institute Vol 92:106-111

Other than the fact that tobacco products are the leading cause of lung cancer, here are some lesser-known facts about tobacco consumption:

  • Tobacco companies always use good-looking models to make smoking look cool.
  • A pack a day habit will cost you about $1500 (QR5461) a year.
  • Nicotine is a drug that is as addictive as cocaine and heroin. Nicotine in cigarettes make your heart beat faster and your blood pressure rise.
  • Dangerous ingredients that make up a cigarette include carbon monoxide (present in car exhausts), ammonia (found in toilet cleaning products) and arsenic (found in rat poison).
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The Quitters

Riad Makdessi started smoking at the age of 22 till he realised that he hated the smell of cigarette smoke. “I hated how I smelled. I felt like an ashtray. It was affecting my health too. Moreover, I didn’t want my kids to grow up seeing their father smoke. I didn’t want to be a bad role model for them.” Riad didn’t go cold turkey. Instead he used nicotine alternatives like gum and lozenges. “These alternatives were equally addictive but luckily not toxic like cigarettes. I think it’s better to go cold turkey as you would have to suffer once and for all rather than suffering each time you have to reduce the amount of nicotine intake.
“I quit smoking completely five months back. On the flip side I have gained around seven kilos. This is because my health has improved and my appetite has grown.”

Goran Zlatevski too began at the age of 22. “At that age you think smoking is the in thing,” he says. He had been smoking for 16 years and though the advertisements and pictorial warnings about the health effects of smoking did make him reconsider on several occasions, he simply brushed away all thoughts of quitting. “This year I felt I should put a complete stop to smoking because I knew it was not good for me. I reduced from smoking an entire pack to just five cigarettes a day. I did that for three months till I completely stopped buying cigarette packets. It’s been seven months now since I stopped. People think it’s difficult to quit, but actually it’s all in the mind. If you make up your mind, you can definitely stop.”

Denver Gomeceria was a heavy smoker. He tried quitting once and was successful for 11 months, but started again when work pressure began to rise. This is his second attempt at quitting. “Smoking becomes a part of your lifestyle, it’s like a habit. My advice would be to change this habit one step at a time. I started by slowly reducing the nicotine intake rather than suddenly quitting just so that it isn’t that painful for me. I started buying cigarette packets that had lower nicotine concentration. From 0.8 mg to 0.6mg, to 0.3 and finally 0.01mg. You just need to wait for the right time to completely be off smoking. I fell sick, and thought it was best to stop now. Now it’s been three months that I haven’t smoked a cigarette. If you can survive without cigarettes for a day, you can survive for a week, and slowly you will learn to survive for months,” he says.

How to say ‘NO’

One of the main challenges of quitting smoking is dealing with withdrawal symptoms. “A smoker who plans to quit has to be aware that the early symptoms after quitting are normal and healthy, indicating that the body is passing through a cleaning and curable stage from nicotine and all smoke poisons. These symptoms start appearing 24 hours after quitting. Loss of concentration and coughing are common symptoms,” says Dr Al-Mulla.

Here are some simple ways to deal with withdrawal symptoms.

  • Develop new habits. Drink a glass of juice after a meal instead of lighting up or go for a walk rather than taking a cigarette break.
  • Avoid coffee. Coffee actually acts like a trigger for smoking.
  • Keep busy the first few days after you quit. Engage in sports activities.
  • Try switching to a brand you do not like before quitting smoking.
  • Try smoking only a part of half a cigarette.
  • Delay the time you start smoking by half an hour each day.
  • Make it difficult to smoke. Hide your cigarettes, lighter and ashtray.
  • Make a list of all the reasons you want to quit smoking. Keep it in sight at all times.
  • Quit with a friend. The support will help you get through the worst of it.
  • Switch to alternatives such as nicotine patches, nicotine gum and lozenges or medication such as Champix and Zyban that can be found in all pharmacies and the smoking cessation clinic of HMC.

Are you a smoker? Do you plan on quitting? Share your thoughts with us.


  1. Mazen Al-OKaily

    I smoked for 14 consecutive years, I was a heavy smoker who used to smoke 2 packs+ per day. If I want to illustrate myself back then, a cigarette will always be in my hand, no matter what I do, where I go I am always smoking. Then In August 2012 I decided to quit smoking and on the same day I did, I started by chewing gum and exercising every day and now I cannot stand the smell of it. And now I know how people around me used to feel when I used to smoke.

  2. Hilton M

    I’ve tried almost everything to quit for good. Hypnotism, acupuncture, the Allen Carr book and cutting down. In my mind, the best route would still be to go cold turkey. I agree with the Goran guy in your article…the so-called power of this drug is all in the mind.

  3. Teddy Alshaer

    It’s been 2.5 years since I’ve quit. I have realized that the biggest effect on our minds is the association of things. We associate pain with some things and we also associate pleasure with other things. Once we learn how to correctly associate pain with smoking instead of pleasure with smoking, then we realize the truth of smoking. It’s slowly deteriorating you immunity and causing abnormalities in your biochemical composition, just as any physically dependant drug. It also is the leading cause of heart disease and lung cancer, not to mention a lower sperm count!

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