Around one out of three attendees quit compared to just one out of twenty attempting on their own
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: 14th July 2013: Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC) is treating a record number of tobacco addicts at its Smoking Cessation Clinic since the initiative opened in late 2010. The most recent influx of patients into the facility comes hot on the heels of the May 31 World No Tobacco Day, a date which appears to have focussed minds and inspired attempts to quit from those who are hooked on the killer weed.
Running the Smoking Cessation Clinic, which is licensed by the Health Authority of Abu Dhabi (HAAD), is Dr. Abdul Razzak Alkaddour, a consultant cardiologist at SKMC and his committed team of healthcare professionals. The clinic staff is dedicated to reducing the needless deaths and life-changing diseases that result from an addiction to tobacco smoke and works tirelessly to help smokers stub out the habit for good.
“We have received a great deal of interest patients who have decided to pack in smoking with the help of our specialist clinic – we are taking three times the amount of bookings than when we first initiated the programme,” said Dr. Alkaddour. “The increase in demand for our services is in part due to the attention from World No Tobacco Day, which took place two weeks ago, but also owes much to the measures taken by our federal government to foster an anti-tobacco environment within the country, the recent cigarette pack images of what smoking does to the body being a good example,” he added.
The treatment that Dr. Alkaddour and his team uses to help smokers stop is a combination of cognitive counselling and pharmacological treatment where necessary, with best practice being taken from established international smoking cessation programmes. Patients' carbon monoxide (CO) levels are also monitored through a CO analyser, with the results showing the degree of CO poisoning often acting as a wake-up call to those attending the clinic. The centre is just one of the community outreach programmes run by SKMC, which is part of the SEHA Health System and is owned and operated by Abu Dhabi Health Services Company PJSC (SEHA), the entity responsible for the curative activities of all the public hospitals and clinics in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.
The clinic team's efforts appear to be paying dividends, with around one out of three attendees quitting tobacco for at least six months, a figure that needs to be compared to the one out of twenty who are successful in stopping without any support. In addition to the facility at SKMC, an institution that is managed by Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Alkaddour and his consultant cardiologist colleague, Dr. Sherif Bakir, have been conducting healthy heart and tobacco addiction outreach activities across government and private entities elsewhere in Abu Dhabi, as well as in Dubai and Al Ain.
The tobacco epidemic kills nearly six million people a year globally as a result of cancer, heart disease, asthma and other illnesses, with the figure including more than 600,000 non-smokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke. It is thought that without intervention, the number will increase to more than eight million a year by 2030. Peculiar to this particular region is the heavy use of shisha, which Dr. Alkaddour says is becoming an increasing problem, especially for women and young people.
“Cigarette smoking in the west used to be the preserve of men until it became acceptable for women to take up the habit in the 1920s and we are now seeing the same pattern with shisha smoking,” said Alkaddour. “Taking a pipe of shisha was traditionally an activity associated with older men in the Arab communities, but it has since developed into a trendy pastime for young people, including women. With one bowl of unfiltered shisha tobacco the equivalent of 30 cigarettes, it is not difficult to see that we are sitting on a health time bomb that needs to be defused as quickly as possible,” he added.
“All forms of tobacco use are potentially injurious to health and may lead to addiction, including the smoking of tobacco through a little pipe or ‘midwakh,' which is becoming increasingly popular within the region. Scientific studies are ongoing to determine the exact nicotine content in midwakh tobacco in comparison to that of cigarettes, which will help us to devise methods to overcome this spreading form of harmful tobacco use,” Dr Alkaddour continued.
Fortunately, as Dr. Alkaddour reassures, stopping smoking not only halts, but can also reverse the biological damage caused by the habit and improves the treatment for conditions such as heart disease, respiratory disease and lung cancer. After giving up tobacco, the smoking-related risk of heart disease will decrease significantly within five years of quitting. He hopes that the imminent arrival of the Holy Month of Ramadan will provide the impetus for many to kick-start their ending of dependence on nicotine.
“Ramadan is just around the corner and this can provide the encouragement needed for a permanent cessation of smoking. If you can successfully stop during Ramadan, by the time of Eid Al Fitr, your withdrawal symptoms will have disappeared, your lungs will have started to repair themselves and you will notice less congestion, coughing and shortness of breath,” said Dr. Alkaddour.
“And don't think that if you are older there's no point in giving up. In one study of almost 9,000 people aged 50-74, it was found that smokers who quit later on in life considerably improved their cardiovascular health in just a few years. Compared to individuals who continued smoking, the risk of heart attack and stroke in this group was reduced significantly within the first few months to few years after their last cigarette, so it's never too late to stop,” he added.