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High mortality rates prompt experts to renew calls to curb smoking across Kingdom

By Rayya Al Muheisen - Jul 15,2023 - Last updated at Jul 15,2023

Representative image. Jordan is one of the countries where shisha (water pipe tobacco) smoking is highly prevalent, with approximately 3,000 cafes offering shisha, according to the Jordanian National Association for Smoking Control (Photo courtesy of unsplash/Wesley Balten)

AMMAN — Despite official calls to combat and reduce smoking, smoking-related deaths in Jordan are estimated around 8,000 annually with high rates of cancer and hundreds of cases of chronic disease, according to experts.

According to recent studies, the smoking rate in Jordan is estimated around 41 per cent, which is among the highest rates globally. A recent study by World Health Organisation (WHO) also revealed that Jordanian households spend more on tobacco-related products than food items. 

Bassam Hijjawi, the head of the Jordanian National Association for Smoking Control, told local media agencies that smoking is described by the WHO as a pandemic in all its forms, including regular and electronic cigarettes. 

He added that smoking is a global issue and not limited to Jordan.

He highlighted that the prevalence of smoking in Jordan is high compared with many other countries, calling for “stricter penalties” and more measures to reduce smoking.

He also mentioned that 10 per cent of smokers in Jordan resort to electronic cigarettes, mainly among young people

Hijjawi noted that Jordan is one of the countries where shisha (water pipe tobacco) smoking is highly prevalent, with approximately 3,000 cafes offering shisha.

Hijjawi highlighted that smoking cessation is low in Jordan, despite the presence of 29 free specialised clinics for smoking cessation across all governorates.

Economist Khaled Salameh said that from an economic standpoint, high smoking rates in Jordan have significant implications for both individuals and the national economy.

“Healthcare costs associated with smoking-related diseases impose a heavy burden on the healthcare system and contribute to limiting resources available for other health services as well as other important sectors such as education,” he told The Jordan Times

Implementing measures such as higher taxes on tobacco products improves public health outcomes, Salameh said.

As for the long-term benefits, implementing stricter measures reduces healthcare expenditures and enhances productivity, said Salameh. 

Abdel Rahman Shaher, former health director at the Ministry of Health told The Jordan Times that smoking is a major risk factor for various respiratory diseases, including lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cardiovascular diseases. 

“The statistics revealing the number of smoking-related deaths and the prevalence of chronic illnesses are alarming,” Shaher said. 

He added that efforts to combat smoking through a multi-faceted approach must be prioritised.

“Stricter regulations on tobacco sales, especially on e-cigarettes for underage individuals, is crucial,” Shaher noted. 

According to Shaher, introducing comprehensive smoking cessation programmes and public health campaigns to raise awareness about the harmful effects of smoking on the lungs and overall health is necessary.

Sociologist Hussein Khuzai explained that high smoking rates in Jordan can be understood as a complex issue influenced by various social factors. 

“Social norms and cultural practices play a significant role in shaping individuals’ behaviour, and smoking may be perceived as a socially acceptable or even desirable activity in certain contexts,” Khuzai told The Jordan Times. 

Additionally, socioeconomic factors such as poverty and unemployment can contribute to stress and anxiety, leading individuals to use smoking as a coping mechanism, said Khuzai. 

“To address this issue, comprehensive strategies should be implemented, including awareness campaigns, education about the health risks and addressing the underlying social and economic determinants that drive smoking behaviour,” Khuzai said.

 

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