According to the World Health Organization, tobacco is responsible for ten percent of deaths globally, killing approximately seven million people each year from both direct and passive means.
A 2016 report by The Tobacco Atlas revealed that in the UAE there are almost one million smokers and, in men alone, there are 52 deaths from tobacco-related illness each week. As World No Tobacco Day approaches on 31st May, an Abu Dhabi based doctor is appealing to smokers to kick the habit, before it’s too late.
“In the Gulf region, many people die each year from lung cancer because they do not realise the effect of smoking on the body,” explained Dr Harbi Darwish, specialist in thoracic surgery at Bareen International Hospital.
“Whether it’s cigarettes, shisha or a pipe, this habit is so harmful.”
With symptoms of lung cancer ranging from coughing to chest pain and shortness of breath, Dr Harbi wants people to take the matter more seriously.
“Lung cancer is such a serious disease and the mortality rate is very high,” noted Dr Harbi.
“When you smoke, you lose oxygen during inhalation, and your lungs lose their elasticity and capacity to breathe. Your heart has to work harder to pump oxygen around your body.”
To successfully tackle the problem, Dr Harbi stressed that public education needs to be stepped up: “Our biggest problem here is health education. People need to understand why [smoking] is so dangerous and the risks involved.”
“When people get a chronic cough or see blood in the [mucus], they often think it’s a cold or a virus and ignore their symptoms and go only to the doctor when the disease is in its advanced stages – that is a huge problem.”