Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC), managed by the Cleveland Clinic, is urging smokers to give up the habit, after international health experts gathered in Abu Dhabi for the 16th World Congress on Tobacco or Health (WCTOH) last month.
The international conference called for a collective resolution to fight tobacco, as its use is the most alarming risk factor for diseases causing millions of deaths every year. Currently over a quarter of people in the UAE smoke which the UAE Vision 2021 sets out to bring down to 16 percent – with the help of a nationwide ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces now in place.
Many people try to break their nicotine addiction as a new year’s resolution but fail to fight the habit within a number of weeks however, SKMC’s Smoking Cessation Clinic provides advice and support on how best to give up for good.
Since its inception in 2010, SKMC’s Smoking Cessation Clinic, which is licensed by the Health Authority of Abu Dhabi (HAAD), has helped a large number of smokers give up nicotine through a combination of medication such as Nicotine Replacement Therapy and cognitive counselling to help manage withdrawal symptoms and break bad habits.
“With medical support, smokers are more likely to succeed in their attempt to give up smoking. Approximately one in three patients at our specialist clinic successfully abstain from smoking for at least six months, compared to one in 20 who are able to quit without medical support,” said Dr. Abdul Razzak Alkaddour, Consultant Cardiologist, who leads the Smoking Cessation Clinic, and is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine.
“All of our staff are dedicated to supporting smokers give up nicotine but helping them understand what are the triggers that make them crave a cigarette. This could be stress or simply force of habit such as, having a cigarette with your daily morning coffee. It is important to identify the triggers and break old behavioural patterns that lead to smoking such as, using exercise as a stress reliever instead of nicotine.”
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.
Smoking has been linked to several health problems including heart attacks, stroke, respiratory disease, cancers, especially lung cancer, and many other health conditions. Smoking kills nearly six million people a year globally, including over 600,000 non-smokers who have been exposed to second-hand smoke, according to the World Health Organization. It is thought that without intervention, the number will increase to more than eight million a year by 2030.
With one bowl of unfiltered shisha tobacco being the equivalent of 30 cigarettes, Dr. Alkaddour says that shisha, along with and other forms of tobacco consumption, poses a serious health risk in this region.
“All forms of tobacco use including cigarettes, shisha, and the smoking of tobacco through a little pipe or ‘midwakh,’ which is becoming increasingly popular within the region, are potentially harmful to health,” he said.
Stopping smoking can drastically improve lifestyle and health, and some of the benefits seen immediately, with oxygen levels in the blood returning to normal after just eight hours. It takes just 48 hours for CO and nicotine to be eliminated from the body, and the lungs will begin to clear out mucus and other smoking-related debris.
“Once you stop smoking, some of the benefits are immediate and others are longer-term, but either way, whether you have been smoking for five years or 15 years, you will considerably improve your cardiovascular health and overall life expectancy. After giving up tobacco, the smoking-related risk of heart disease will decrease significantly within five years,” said Dr. Arif Al-Mulla, Chief of Cardiology at SKMC and certified with the American and Canadian boards in cardiovascular disease, as well as advanced heart failure and transplant cardiology in the USA.
Ten years after giving up smoking, the risk of lung cancer falls to half that of a smoker and after 15 years the chance of heart attack falls to the same as someone who has never smoked before.
“The best way to protect your health and that of your family is to stop smoking altogether,” Dr. Alkaddour concluded.