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Quit tobacco for Ramadan

Quit tobacco for Ramadan

Issue 2 Nov / Dec 2003


With its emphasis upon self-discipline and abstinence, Ramadan is a perfect occasion for even the heaviest smoker to cease the habit. Dr Khalid Anees lays bare the consequences of tobacco use, and provides practical advice on how to give up for good.


Zara is 39 and in the last couple of weeks she has noticed a small painless swelling underneath her tongue. She doesn’t really think anything is wrong, but after a month or so she is not sure if the swelling has got bigger. She goes to her doctor who refers her to her dentist. Her dentist seems concerned and immediately sends her to hospital. She has mouth cancer and within a few minutes her life has turned upside down. She needs an operation to remove everything that the cancer is touching. This includes her tongue, half her jaw, some salivary glands and some glands and muscle from her neck. In the process a couple of nerves have had to be cut as well, so she now has no feeling across half her face. In an attempt to rebuild her face, the surgeons use a rib to repair Zara’s jaw, take muscle to replace the tongue and remove a blood vessel from her arm to substitute the one that was cut. The surgery takes over ten hours. Zara needs to breathe through a hole in her neck. She is unable to chew or taste food, and will probably be fed liquidised food for the rest of her life. If she cannot swallow, food will be dripped in to her stomach through her nose. Within five years she is likely to be dead. What could be the cause of such a terrible disease? The answer - tobacco.


Tobacco Today

The most common form of tobacco use in the UK is cigarettes. However in much of the world, particularly the Indian sub-continent and parts of the Middle East, chewing tobacco is extremely popular. In the UK, the Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities have continued this habit. This has contributed to the massive increase in illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes amongst men. Health professionals are particularly alarmed at the increasingly young age at which people from these communities are becoming struck by these devastating illnesses.


Types of Tobacco

Tobacco is chewed as well as smoked in the form of ‘pan’, or used as a sweet or accompaniment in the form of ‘supari’. Supari also contains betel nut, which has recently been implicated in cancer, and is known to cause a pre-cancerous condition called oral submucous fibrosis. This condition, in which the cheeks become fibrous and the person suffering is unable to open their mouth fully, has no cure.

The effects of chewing tobacco worsen according to the length of time the tobacco is kept in the mouth. It is traditional for many chewers around the world to keep tobacco in the mouth for hours.


Some facts about tobacco:

Around the world there are 4.9 million tobacco related deaths every year.

Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death today.

12 million adults in the UK smoke cigarettes - 28% of men and 26% of women.

In the United Kingdom 450 children start smoking every day.

Tobacco use kills around 120,000 people in  the UK every year, about 330 every day – equivalent to a daily plane crash with no survivors.

20% of all deaths are caused by tobacco.

Tobacco is the only legally available consumer  product which kills people when it is used entirely as intended.

Smoking kills around six times more people in  the UK than road traffic accidents (3,391), other accidents (8,933), poisoning and overdose (3157), murder and manslaughter (495), suicide (4,485), and HIV infection (180) all put together (20,641 in total - 1999 figures).

It is estimated that several hundred cases of  lung cancer and several thousand cases of heart disease in non-smokers in the UK are caused by passive smoking - breathing other people’s tobacco smoke.


Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemical compounds, which are present either as gases or as tiny particles. These include:


This is the addictive element. It stimulates the central nervous system, increasing the heartbeat rate and blood pressure. In large quantities nicotine is extremely poisonous.


Brown and treacly in appearance, tar consists of tiny particles and is formed when tobacco smoke condenses. Tar is deposited in the lungs and respiratory system and gradually absorbed.

Carbon monoxide:

This binds to haemoglobin in the bloodstream more easily than oxygen, thus making the blood carry less oxygen round the body.


Health Risks

Smoking causes at least 80% of all deaths from lung cancer, around 80% of all deaths from bronchitis and emphysema and around 17% of


Thirty per cent of all cancer deaths can be attributed to smoking.


Cigarette smoking increases the risk of having a heart attack by up to three times.


Almost 90% of cases of peripheral vascular disease which lead to amputation of one or both legs are caused by smoking - 2000 amputations a year in the UK.


Women who smoke and take the contraceptive pill have 10 times the risk of a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular disease compared with those who take the pill but are non-smokers.


Smoking leads to an earlier menopause and increases the risk of osteoperosis.


Smoking has been associated with increased sperm abnormalities and with impotence in men.


Smoking during pregnancy can be harmful to the unborn child.

Little Known Facts About Smoking

Smoking can affect your sense of taste and smell. Smokers are more likely to develop facial wrinkles at a younger age and suffer dental hygiene problems. Stomach ulcers are made worse by smoking. Wounds, including surgical incisions, in smokers take longer to heal.


Smoke free Ramadan

The importance of healthy living plays a pivotal role within the central tenants of Islam and with greater certainty of the dangers of tobacco, members of the Muslim community have attempted to address the situation. An example of how this has been put in to practice can be seen in the North West where health professionals have joined together to form a multidisciplinary team. In conjunction with organisations such as the British Heart Foundation, they have developed training courses for Muslim religious and community leaders covering items such as the dangers of tobacco, what Islam says about tobacco, help available for those wishing to stop using tobacco and how imams can play an essential role through provision of smoking cessation services within mosques.


Much of the work focuses around Ramadan. This is a month when Muslims are introspective, enthused with remembrance of their faith, and blessed with the self-discipline to quit smoking. According to the British Heart Foundation’s Qaim Zaidi, “Ramadan provides an excellent opportunity for Muslim smokers to harness their willpower and give up smoking altogether. There are various community initiatives that can support them such as Asian Quitline and Smoke Free Ramadan. The British Heart Foundation has undertaken major research on how to encourage the Muslim community to give up smoking and other tobacco-related habits. The most effective campaigns have included targeting mosques at prayer time and training Imams to raise awareness among their congregation about the importance of protecting the heart.”


Benefits of stopping using tobacco

Giving up smoking can reduce the risk of developing many medical problems. Within 10-15 years of giving up smoking, an ex-smoker’s risk of developing lung cancer is only slightly greater than that of a non-smoker. A young smoker suffering from bronchitis or emphysema who gives up may see some improvement in lung function as a result: damage to lungs caused by years of smoking is permanent but quitting smoking prevents it worsening.


Top Tips to Give Up Smoking

Decide a date when you will stop smoking and stick to it.


Keep busy to take your mind off cigarettes. Now may be the perfect time to take up a hobby, get involved in a community activity or do that DIY project you’ve been promising to get round to.


Get active - exercise helps to relax the body  and promote a feeling of wellbeing.


Drink plenty of fluids. Always keep a bottle of  water or carton of juice by you and sip it

steadily. Try different flavours.


Manage your withdrawal symptoms – irritability  and poor concentration may leave you feeling a little anti-social, but remember these are symptoms of your body recovering from the tobacco and will disappear within a few weeks.


Don’t relapse. No crisis or event is a good  enough excuse to have a sneaky cigarette. You are a non-smoker now.


Keep track of the money you are saving by not  buying cigarettes and spend it on a nice treat for yourself.


Don’t resort to fatty snacks or other forms of  comfort food. Eat healthily as part of your new non-smoking lifestyle.


Take each day at a time. Nobody says it is  going to be easy so every day you go without smoking is an achievement you should feel proud of.


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