Bahrain's young smokers on the rise
Manama, December 8, 2012
Bahrain’s doctors have warned of an alarming increase in smoking-related diseases among young people in the Kingdom.
They say children as young as 10 years have picked up the habit which results in chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) at an early age, our sister newspaper, the Gulf Daily News reported.
The lung disease is normally seen in people aged over 40 from smoking too many cigarettes and sheesha, which causes continuous cough, shortness of breath and chest tightness.
"We are currently observing people as young as 10 smoking, and that has led to a shift in cases suffering from early stages of COPD to younger generations," said Ibn Al Nafees Hospital pulmonary critical care and sleep medicine consultant Dr Reyadh Salman.
"This is a real challenge, as we know that smokers die 10 years earlier on average.”
"We need to ensure the public, 'decision-making' school programmes, and parents in particular, are well aware of the harm that smoking causes - especially at such a young age."
There are around 1.2 billion smokers worldwide with 80 per cent of them in developing countries, including the GCC.
Dr Salman said people in the Middle East do not necessarily smoke cigarettes, but are heavy sheesha smokers.
He said predictions by the World Health Organisation warn that COPD will be the third leading cause of death globally by 2030, behind heart diseases and strokes.
"Much of this could be attributed to local customs," he added.
"Globally, prevalence of COPD currently is between 4 – 6 per cent and about 80 per cent of cases are linked to cigarette smoking."
COPD cases have also been increasing among Bahraini women, which is a startling change, according to American Mission Hospital respirator department head and consultant Dr Suad Al Monfaradi.
"Now I see the same number of females suffering from the disease," she said.
"The number of smokers is increasing globally on a gradual basis, and we are seeing more young people suffering from smoking-related lung problems - something we should all be concerned about."
She said COPD is a preventable and treatable disease.
"A major problem in treatment is failure to comply with medication regimens, as patients only remember when they are short of breath, or start coughing," she explained.
Several steps have already been taken in Bahrain to try and curb tobacco use among the population.
Retailers in the country have started importing cigarette packets with graphic warnings about the dangers of smoking and have until January to finish their existing stock which does not include the warnings.
The visual health warnings include horrific images depicting the deterioration of organs and harmful effects of smoking on pregnant women, which will also be placed on sheesha tobacco packs.
Both Dr Salman and Dr Monfaradi have been offering COPD screenings and a series of awareness lectures to the public, as well as seminars to general practitioners.
The new cigarette packets were approved by the six GCC states and aim to encourage consumers to kick the habit.
According to the regulation, no new shipments of tobacco products are allowed into the country without inspection by the authorities concerned.
A warning that smoking causes lung cancer and heart diseases is also printed on the front of the packets in both Arabic and English.
Also, His Majesty King Hamad ratified the anti-smoking law in 2009. This banned smoking in indoor public places, including restaurants, cafes, hotels and hair salons, and on public transport and in private cars - where there are children.
It further forbids planting, manufacturing or reprocessing of tobacco in Bahrain as well as importing chewable tobacco-based products and other tobacco-based substances unlicensed by the Health Ministry. – TradeArabia News Service