Friday, August 21, 2009

Good News : Quitting smoking can be easier during Ramazan

Fasting allows smokers to abstain from smoking during the day, making Ramazan the perfect period to kick the potentially fatal habit altogether.

This was the view point of health professionals and religious scholars at a seminar at Aga Khan University (AKU) on the occasion of National Quit Smoking Day.

Chair, National Alliance for Tobacco Control (NATC) and Head, Section of Pulmonary Diseases, AKU, Dr. Javaid A. Khan, shared strategies to help smokers quit their habit.

"Just as the will power helps us give up food and drink during the day to fulfil our religious obligations, the same can help smokers quit for life," said Dr. Khan, adding that smoking urges are usually short, lasting only five minutes.

If smokers can resist for those few minutes, they may be able to quit, he said.

He pointed out that physical withdrawal symptoms after giving up smoking include irritability, anger, restlessness, impatience, insomnia and difficulty in concentrating, peaking for three to 10 days, but with the intensity decreasing over the time.

Dr. Khan said the most vulnerable time for smokers is after meals, especially after breaking the fast. He suggested keeping physically and mentally busy as a strategy for escaping smoking urges.

Stressing the importance of will power, Engineer Naveed Ahmed, a religious scholar from the Quran Academy, Karachi said, one of the important benefits of fasting is that one develops a sense of discipline, which can be useful in helping people break other bad habits also.

Consultant Chest Physician, AKU, Dr Muhammad Irfan, explained that most people quit smoking after there is permanent damage to their health.

A person who continues to smoke after 40 loses three months of their life for every year that one smokes, he said, adding that that medication is available to curb the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.

According to research, over 100,000 people in Pakistan die every year due to tobacco related diseases and almost 50 per cent from cancer-related deaths from tobacco use.

In men, lung cancer is the number one cause of death from cancer, while mouth cancer is a close second for both men and women.

In Pakistan, in 2002, over 40 per cent of men and 8 per cent of women smoked. Over time, while smoking prevalence in the West is falling, it is increasing in developing countries like Pakistan, said Dr. Khan.

Dr. Khan said that smoking is on the rise among women in Pakistan, citing research that shows that of schoolgirls in Karachi, 16 per cent were smokers.

Speakers at the conference also warned against the increasing trend of smoking shishas, or water pipes.

"People have the misconception that water dilutes the effect of tobacco, when in fact, one session of shisha is equivalent to 100 cigarettes, according to WHO", said Dr. Khan.

He pointed out that according to the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, over 64 per cent male and 37 per cent female university students in Karachi have tried shisha at least once, while over half the total number of students surveyed smoke shisha regularly.

The seminar closed with a video message from Dr. Zakir Naik, a scholar from the Islamic Research Foundation, who said that the use of tobacco is strictly prohibited in Islam.

The National Quit Smoking Day is commemorated annually by NATC, in collaboration with AKU, WHO, Pakistan Chest Society, Pakistan Medical Association, Pakistan Islamic Medical Association and the Quran Academy Karachi.

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