Abu Dhabi schoolchildren smoking statistic almost double WHO average, study shows
ABU DHABI // A study of expatriate schoolchildren in Abu Dhabi revealed 62 per cent had tried smoking tobacco.
The figure was almost double that of the global average in a study by the World Health Organisation.
Researchers at New York University in Abu Dhabi looked into the habits of 439 expatriate Year 9 pupils.
Doctors said the UAE results, from five private high schools, showed a worrying trend which could also increase the risk of youngsters trying other drugs.
Forty-eight per cent of the pupils aged between 13 and 14 said they had friends who were regular smokers.
In comparison, a Global Youth Tobacco Survey in 2001 of pupils aged 13 to 15 in 43 countries showed that on average, 33 per cent had tried cigarettes and 24 per cent had smoked before the age of 10.
“Smoking and other tobacco use in kids is a serious problem, which affects their health in different aspects,” said Dr Rouba Manachi, a paediatrician at Prime Hospital in Garhoud.
“Tobacco contains nicotine, which is a highly addictive drug. The younger the age, the greater the harm is likely to be.
“It is also a risk factor for future use of marijuana, cocaine and alcohol.”
Students who participated answered 57 questions on tobacco use and 12 related to dokha.
The study showed 19 per cent of boys and 10 per cent of girls smoked shisha. In Ajman, 11.5 per cent of medical students had used dokha.
“I was surprised to read the statistics, which were higher than I expected. I’m a firm believer that children watch what we do rather than do what we say,” said Andrew Wood, principal at Greenfield Community School in Dubai.
More than half the respondents, 51 per cent, said they had no trouble smoking shisha, despite their age.
“Teenagers who smoke are three-times more likely than non-smokers to use alcohol, and eight times more likely to have drug abuse problems. Smoking is associated with a host of other risky behaviour,” said Dr Sonia Gupte, a general practitioner at iCare Clinics.
Updated: October 5, 2015 04:00 AM