Muscat: If you are someone whose efforts to quit smoking have been in vain so far, you may consider taking a 'scientific' approach to saying goodbye to this 'silent killer' in the month of Ramadan and then stick to your resolve with an iron will.
You may have tried a dozen usual and unusual ways to give up smoking, only to take it up the next day, but the Ministry of Health is now encouraging smokers to seek advice from specialists who can help them stop smoking for the last time.
"Ramadan is a great opportunity for smokers. If a smoker can manage not to smoke for 15 hours, I think it will be very easy for him to quit," says Ahmed Hamed Al Wahaibi, senior consultant in Family Medicine at the Ministry of Health.
Speaking to the Times of Oman, Al Wahaibi said that some smokers usually adopt the wrong approach to stop smoking, unaware of the fact that there are specialists at health centres who can provide them with the best solutions.
"There are people who start smoking immediately after Iftar while some smokers do it later. Those who are dependent on nicotine usually experience symptoms of cigarette withdrawal when they do not smoke, which include anxiety, nervousness and headache," he said.
Two crucial weeks
Al Wahaibi says the good news is that the blood will get rid of nicotine within two weeks.
"This is my experience. If a smoker can tolerate not smoking for two weeks, he will be fine afterwards," the official noted.
He said that if a person truly wants to quit smoking, he is encouraged to go to the public tobacco cessation clinics where he can receive consultation.
According to him, there are two such clinics in Oman; one in Nizwa which is part of the Nizwa healthy lifestyle project and the other one in Wadi Kabir in Muscat. "Around six percent of smokers usually cannot tolerate the withdrawal symptoms. These people are highly encouraged to come for counselling. We will give them the necessary guidelines. If a person really wants to quit, it is easy to help him."
Al Wahaibi said that those who are highly dependent on nicotine and are seeking to quit smoking are usually offered nicotine replacement therapy during which nicotine patches, nicotine gum, or nicotine lozenges are used "which have no side effects."
However, they should consult with specialists before using them because many people, including some pharmacy staff, do not know the right way to use them, he noted. "For instance, nicotine gum is not designed to be chewed like normal gum."
And nicotine replacement therapy is preferred to tablets, said Al Wahaibi, who has taken specialised courses in family medicine and nicotine addiction therapy in Oman and abroad, including in Toronto.
The official added that consultation is free for all Omanis and also for expatriates who work in the public sector but treatment is not provided free of cost.
"When a person takes a decision to quit smoking, he should avoid the things that may tempt him to return to cigarettes again, including the company of smoking friends or sitting in places where tobacco is used," Al Wahaibi said.
Calling smoking a silent killer, the senior consultant noted that smokers should be aware of the health dangers of smoking.
He recommended that smokers should quit smoking in one go if they can. "Just set a date for yourself, the mid of Ramadan, your birthday, your wedding anniversary or any other day that you feel comfortable with and decide to give it up. However, if they have relapsed to smoking even 100 times, we still encourage them to come to us and give it another go."
Commenting on educational programmes, he said that there are certain programmes on TV and radio but still more needs to be done.
More centres needed
Also, more tobacco cessation clinics and help with treatment are required, he said, hoping that a day will come when such facilities are available in each governorate with