Doha, 27 April, 2020: Dr. Ahmad Al Mulla, Head of the Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) Tobacco Control Center, says Ramadan is an opportune time to quit smoking. He says during the Holy Month of Ramadan, Muslims fast during daylight hours, which is currently around fourteen hours a day in Qatar. According to Dr. Al Mulla, fasting has a lot of positive effects on one’s health, and those benefits are especially prominent in tobacco users who give up smoking.
“For smokers, quitting is often easier during Ramadan as believers are already required to abstain from food and drink, as well as from smoking cigarettes and using other tobacco products, for fourteen hours,” said Dr. Al Mulla.
“The positive health effects of quitting smoking begin 20 minutes after your last cigarette. Your blood pressure and pulse will start to return to more normal levels. Within eight hours, the body also begins to cleanse itself of the excess carbon monoxide from the cigarettes and carbon monoxide levels in your body return to normal, increasing the body’s oxygen levels,” added Dr. Al Mulla.
Dr. Al Mulla says within the first day of quitting, heart and brain function improves, with the risk of heart disease and stroke decreasing and a person’s blood pressure beginning to drop. He said oxygen levels will also increase, improving energy and breathing function. He said one’s sense of smell and taste will also improve, as nerve endings responsible for the senses of smell and taste begin to heal.
Dr. Al Mulla said each year, in advance of Ramadan, the Tobacco Control Center – which was officially designated by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the first WHO Collaborating Centre in Qatar and the GCC – increases smoking cessation resources available to the public.
“Each Ramadan, HMC’s Tobacco Control Center receives hundreds of requests from new patients. During March and April, we received three times the number of requests from new patients seeking support to quit smoking, which was in part due to the relationship between more severe COVID-19 illness and tobacco use. Through our telephone-based consultations and treatment, we are continuing to support those who wish to quit his harmful habit,” said Dr. Al Mulla.
Dr. Jamal Abdullah, Smoking Cessation Specialist at HMC’s Tobacco Control Center, said while Ramadan can make it easier for some people to quit smoking, heavy tobacco users who can go from smoking every two hours to not smoking for fourteen hours, can experience withdrawal symptoms and should seek professional support.
“For many smokers, quitting is easier during Ramadan but to avoid the side effects of nicotine loss and to help the process of quitting, smokers should consult with a cessation clinic and get medical advice on the best way to stop the habit,” said Dr. Abdullah.
“Within eight hours of the last cigarette, carbon monoxide levels in the blood decrease by over 50 percent, which has positive health benefits but can also trigger withdrawal symptoms such as strong cravings, poor concentration, nerviness, and headaches. These symptoms are normally most pronounced during the first week of quitting. Reading the Holy Quran and reciting Astaghfirullah can help promote spiritual healing, which can help reduce some of the symptoms of withdrawal,” said Dr. Abdullah.
According to Dr. Musallam Mesaed Musallam, Smoking Cessation Specialist at HMC’s Tobacco Control Center, patients who seek support at the Tobacco Control Center receive one-on-one counseling and appropriate nicotine replacement or pharmaceutical support, depending on their level of addiction.
Dr. Arwa Al - Awlaki, a Community Medicine Specialist at the Tobacco Control Center, says it is important for smokers to understand that chronic nicotine use results in a permanent increase in the number of receptors in the brain, which causes nicotine withdrawal symptoms and underscores the importance of seeking professional support, particularly for heavy smokers.
HMC Clinical Psychologist Dr. Ashour Ibrahim says fasting motivates people to do good things and that the Holy Month of Ramadan is a great time to quit smoking, but he also stresses the importance of getting appropriate support. He says both psychological sessions and behavioral therapy can be useful in treating nicotine addiction.