Quit smoking in Abu Dhabi

Is 2012 the year you will give up smoking? We're here to help Discuss this article

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In most European countries, smokers have become a dying breed – in more ways than one. Pushed to the margins of public space, they huddle together outside restaurants and office buildings, under miserable weather and take those drags as if each one were a resolution to exist ’til the bitter end. Every so often, one of them feels too tired for revolution, and bites the cold turkey.

Now that the new anti-smoking ban has come into effect, as of December 21, our government, health authorities, doctors and everyone else who knows what’s good for you, hope things will turn out the same way here. Yet, the powers that be can enforce laws and slap graphic labels on packages till the cows come home, because the only person that can get you to quit is yourself. We’ll merit that it’s not an easy, or even appealing, feat for many smokers.

Let’s start with some basics; it may come as news to some that nicotine is not evil. It is very addictive, but has virtually no life-endangering effects itself. What causes the harm are the tar, poison gases and carbon monoxide which are produced by incomplete combustion when you burn nicotine to smoke it. (Eh?!) We decided we needed to speak to a specialist.

Dr Saul Shiffman is a research professor at the University of Pittsburgh and a Senior Scientific Advisor to Pinney Associates. He was in the Middle East recently on a symposium tour with GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare, who were running a series of lectures for the region’s healthcare professionals about smoking cessation with therapeutic nicotine. We caught up with him to pose a few burning questions.

So its the burning process that releases the harmful chemicals?
Think about it this way: Forget that there is such a thing as cigarette smoking. If someone had a barrel full of leaves and was burning it and then stuck their head in to breathe, you’d think they were doing something stupid. It’s obvious that it’s harmful.

What if it’s filtered, like with shisha? Isn’t that a safer option?
It is not. People think because it’s put through water that it will be safe. I just think of it as giving you wet poison. It doesn’t really filter out the poisons, and on top of that […] because of the charcoal in the bowl of shisha, it actually produces and gives you much more carbon monoxide. Someone who is smoking shisha actually takes in three times as much carbon monoxide as someone smoking a cigarette.

Can you talk us through nicotine replacement therapy?
The most popular way for people to get nicotine therapeutically is a patch, which puts nicotine into your body at a very slow and steady rate but has the disadvantage that you can’t control how much you get or when you get it. The advantage of lozenges is that you have some control over how much you take and when you take it. We’ve shown that it’s effective at reducing cravings very quickly when people get into a situation where they’re tempted to smoke.

How effective are alternative therapies?
I will give you the quantitative scientific facts: hypnosis has been tested repeatedly and has been found to have no effect. Acupuncture has been tested repeatedly and has been found to have no effect. But when you are going to a psychiatrist for sessions, it depends. The kind of counselling that’s been shown to be effective to quitting smoking, is not about thinking about your relationship with your mother, it’s a very practical set of procedures on how to minimize the craving that you feel, how to deal with it when it comes on, and how to get through. It’s really like a ‘how-to’ manual and a coach.

Top tips for quitting smoking:
• You need to change your behaviour to deal with the problems of the addiction.
• It’s important to have a plan. Don’t just jump into quitting. Think about when you’re going to have trouble, like places or situations in which you’d usually smoke.
• Get nicotine replacement therapy medication and be prepared to use it, not only on a schedule (as recommended) but also when you have cravings.
• Both counselling and nicotine replacement therapy are effective in themselves, but you get the very best results if you do both.
• Enlist the help of friends and family – they can encourage and get you through the hard times.
There are clinics across the UAE with trained counsellors who can help you quit. Here are a couple: American Centre for Psychiatry and Neurology, Khalidiya, Abu Dhabi (02 666 4866)

By Elest Ali
Time Out Abu Dhabi,

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