Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 25 August 2019

Ramadan 2019: how to continue the health kick and quit smoking for good

After a month of limiting nicotine in take, Ramadan can be a great time to quit smoking for good

Ramadan can be a kickstart to quitting smoking for good. Silvia Razgova / The National
Ramadan can be a kickstart to quitting smoking for good. Silvia Razgova / The National

As Ramadan draws to an end, those fasting will begin to reflect on the holy month and how their bodies feel.

For some, Ramadan will have been a time to embrace a healthier lifestyle, with the positive effect fasting can have on the body becoming apparent.

And for smokers, Ramadan will have likely been a time of cutting down, something that many will hope to carry through into the rest of the year.

Kick-starter to quitting

Ramadan introduces a “tapering method”, which sees many smokers naturally reduce the amount they smoke each day, says Dr Iyaad Hasan, staff associate from the medical subspecialties institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

Not being able to smoke during daylight hours can also lead to many questioning their reasons for smoking, something that can help people quit in the long term. “Ramadan is a great way to teach yourself how to go through your regular daily routine and to avoid the triggers that make you smoke,” says Dr. Hasan.

Governments around the world have wrestled with the dilemma of balancing health objectives against revenue from smoking / AFP
Smokers have to abstain between sunrise and sunset during Ramadan / AFP

Reasons to quit

Giving up completely can seem daunting, especially for long-term smokers, but there are many health benefits to quitting, many of which are evident within the first few days of being smoke-free, Dr Hasan says.

“Your body begins to change within the first 20 minutes of quitting. Your blood pressure starts to drop. Within a few days to a few weeks, your blood circulation improves. Your sense of taste and smell comes back. Breathing improves tremendously, possibly up to 30 per cent within the first week,” he says.

Tips for successfully quitting

Opting for a strategy that combines support and medication will double your chances of successfully giving up smoking, Dr Hasan says.

Support can help you to identify the cues or triggers that cause you to smoke and to develop a strategy for avoiding or dealing with those triggers, while medication can help with the physical effects.

“We often prescribe nicotine patches, which you are allowed to place on your skin while fasting,” he explains. “We also use tablets which help reduce cravings and decrease the pleasurable effects of tobacco products. These are taken twice a day, once just before you start fasting in the morning, and then again in the evening, just after you break your fast.”

While smoking has become the epitome of anti-social behaviour, shisha is still an incredibly sociable and socially acceptable thing to do. AFP
Shisha can be even more damaging to your health than cigarettes. AFP

It’s not just cigarettes

While cigarette consumption may go down during Ramadan, other forms of smoking such as shisha and medwakh remain just as popular and can be just as damaging to your health.

Medwakh may deceive smokers as it lacks a smell, but its nicotine concentration is a lot stronger than a cigarette, says Dr. Hasan. Shisha can be even more dangerous.

“The problem with shisha isn’t the nicotine content, it is the chemicals,” he says. “The chemical content that comes off the smoke is 100 times that of a cigarette. You are taking in the same amount of chemicals during a 60-minute shisha session as you would be smoking 100 cigarettes.”

With most smokers having lower level of nicotine in the blood after cutting back for Ramadan, it can mean lesser cravings in the period following, making it easier to fight temptations.

Latest statistics from the Tobacco Atlas show that 900,000 adults in the Emirates use tobacco every day, with smoking deemed responsible for one in eight male deaths.

Updated: May 27, 2019 02:55 PM

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