Observed on 31 May each year, the Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC) celebrates World No Tobacco Day 2023, under the theme ‘We Need Food, Not Tobacco’, through a campaign aimed at spreading health awareness and the health risks of smoking by disseminating health messages and urging the community to refrain from smoking and resort to smoking cessation clinics.
The campaign aims to raise awareness of the impact of tobacco on the environment, starting with its cultivation, production, and distribution, and ending with its waste, as well as the importance of exploiting agricultural lands in the transition to more sustainable crops that improve food security and nutrition, and help solve the global food crisis while highlighting health risks associated with tobacco use and calling for effective policies to reduce its consumption.
PHCC said that smoking is responsible for about 90 percent of lung cancer cases, noting that it is the leading cause of death. There are more than eight million deaths worldwide annually due to smoking, and more than one million and two hundred thousand deaths from passive smoking. The main smoking-related deaths are associated with cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Head of Wellness for Community Interventions at PHCC, Dr. Abdul Hamid Al Khanji, said: “Smoking cessation clinics were introduced in PHCC health centers in 2011 with one clinic in one health center, then the service was later expanded to include 16 clinics in different health centers in 2023.”
The government health services at PHCC health centers and hospitals, as well as smoking cessation medications, including bupropion and various forms of nicotine replacement therapy, are available free of charge, added Dr. Al Khanji.
He noted that PHCC’s Wellness Department provides smoking cessation services, including treatment services in 16 smoking cessation specialized clinics in different health centers. In 2022, the number of patients visiting these clinics was more than 3,400, of whom about 15 percent were able to quit smoking. In the first quarter of 2023, the number of patient visits was more than 1,400, of whom about 15 percent were able to quit smoking. In addition to preventive and awareness services provided through awareness programs and campaigns and lectures held in schools, universities, and institutions.
The clinics are available in 13 health centers, where patients can book an appointment regardless of the location of their health file. These are Al Gharrafa, Omar Bin Al Khattab, Al Daayen, Abu Bakr Al Siddiq, Rawdat Al Khail, Al Ruwais, Leabaib, Al Wakra, Qatar University, Al Waab, Muaither, Al Wajbah, and Mesaimeer health centers. Smokers are treated there by either changing their behavioral patterns through distancing them from the smoking habit or by providing necessary medications to help quit smoking that cover the smoker’s need for nicotine (Nicotine Replacement Therapy).
It is estimated that the direct and indirect costs of diseases attributable to tobacco are significant, especially on health care systems and governments, as the total cost of smoking is about 1.5 to 6 percent of national health spending and 0.22 percent to 0.88 percent of countries’ GDP, said PHCC.
Regarding the close relationship between smoking and cancer, PHCC confirmed that there is a close relationship between the two parties, as long as the most prominent diseases caused by smoking are linked to lung cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, coronary artery disease, angina pectoris, and cancer of the mouth, pharynx, and larynx. It added that quitting smoking at any age is associated with significant health benefits for the smoker.
Complete abstinence from smoking reduces the risk of developing lung cancer within five years and reduces the risk of developing other cancers, such as head, neck, esophagus, pancreas, and bladder cancers, noting that quitting smoking reduces the risk of peptic ulcer disease, and helps to improve smokers’ healthy lifestyle.
As for electronic cigarettes, PHCC indicated that they are considered among the modern types, and due to the lack of studies and scientific evidence, they have not been proven to be safe or help in quitting smoking, adding that one of the dangers of electronic cigarettes is that they contain chemicals that can cause cancer and the amount of nicotine present in these cigarettes is unknown.