‘We deserve our health’: Quitting smoking in Jordan

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In 2020, The Guardian named The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan as the country with the highest rate of smoking in the entire world.

Smoking is known to be very harmful to health, and most tobacco users want to quit once they learn about its dangers. However, it is not as simple as just having a desire to quit — according to the World Health Organization, only four percent of tobacco users who try to quit will be successful without external support. اضافة اعلان

One of the most difficult aspects of quitting smoking in Jordan is the constant exposure to tobacco products and advertising and the strong influence of peer pressure. When you walk around the streets of the Kingdom’s cities and towns, the love Jordanians have for tobacco products is palpable — even among teenagers. Puffs of cigarette, shisha, and vape smoke rise from cafes and sidewalks, and grey tobacco clouds fill offices and establishments.

Ossayd Rababah. (Photo: Ossayd Rababah)

All this makes it extremely difficult make the decision to quit smoking and stick with it. However, a few brave souls in Jordan have successfully stopped using tobacco products through diligence, patience, and resolve.

So, what does it take to successfully and permanently quit smoking? Jordan News interviewed those best qualified to answer this question: Two people among the ranks of the Kingdom’s successful quitters.

Considering health and life
Ossayd Rababah is a 29-year-old engineer who is interested in sports and politics — and used to be an avid smoker. 

His story with smoking (cigarettes, to be specific) started in his teens during high school.

“I started learning to smoke when I was young, and I officially became a ‘smoker’ in the 10th grade,” he told Jordan News. “I kept smoking until the age of 25, almost nine years.”

Rababah began to reconsider his habit when he thought about his health. He loved smoking and found a great deal of pleasure in it. However, his health was more important.

“I am by nature a lover of life so I had a firm conviction that smoking would not help me with that,” he said.

On April 1, 2017, he finally took the plunge: He stopped smoking, once and for all.

He remembers that day as a huge milestone in his life, and constantly encourages others to follow in his steps.

‘We deserve our health’
One of the biggest challenges that those who quit smoking face is the intense desire to enjoy one last cigarette. The need for nicotine is a pressing urge, and fighting it requires staying busy and away from any tobacco products — a very difficult endeavor in Jordan.

“I gradually began to move away from the atmosphere of smoking by accustoming myself to staying more at home and eating at home,” explained Rababah. “I also began to carry in my bag some fruits, vegetables, and pastries to eat rather than smoke, and I started to exercise, too.”

I very much hope that we will become a country free from smoking, because the smoking bill is very expensive — economically, and health-wise,
If you decide to quit smoking, it is important to keep reminding yourself that health is more important than any pleasure. “Smoking is very harmful to health and a major cause of many diseases that may make a person experience symptoms of old age in the prime of his youth,” the young engineer said.

“I very much hope that we will become a country free from smoking, because the smoking bill is very expensive — economically, and health-wise,” he said.

“We deserve our health for ourselves and for those we love.”

A harsh reality
Mohammad Abu Omair is an accountant whose journey to quit smoking began with the diagnosis of his late father with lung cancer. The father had been an avid smoker, and passed the habit on to his son. Faced with the diagnosis — and the harsh reality of the damage incurred by smoking — Abu Omair and his father pledged to fight the habit together, throw away their cigarettes, and never look back.

Muhammad Abu Omair. (Photo: Muhammad Abu Omair) 

Abu Omair’s father passed away in 2013, but the young man continued the march alone, remembering his vow to his father.

He kept himself busy through maintaining a healthy lifestyle and working out. And he was not alone. “My family’s support was very important, and it helped me quit,” he said.

Similar to Rababah, Abu Omair had started smoking cigarettes in the tenth grade. Through patience and hard work, he successfully quit the habit in the same year as his father’s passing, and has been tobacco-free ever since, going on ten years.

“I wish everyone would stay away from smoking,” he said, reflecting on his family’s loss due to the deadly substance.

What does the addiction specialist say?

“Smoking is a habit and an addiction at the same time,” said Dr Mansour Badr, a psychiatrist and an addiction specialist who is head of the outpatient psychiatric clinic at the Zarqa Governmental Hospital.

Smoking is linked to specific rituals, such as gatherings with friends, drinking coffee, or even listening to Fayrouz, making it a habit, he explained. Meanwhile, it can be considered an addiction because withdrawal symptoms occur when it stops, and people who are habitual users experience a constant longing for tobacco.

Quitting smoking begins simply with making the decision to stop, Badr explained. This must be accompanied with a strong will and perseverance. Those who wish to quit smoking can also refer to a psychiatrist, as certain treatments exist that can help.

Jordan’s Ministry of Health also has many centers that provide free services to anyone who wants to quit smoking.

On the level of public health, smoking “can be overcome by raising awareness of its harmful effects, reducing the import of tobacco products, increasing customs and prices, and imposing fines for smoking in public places,” Badr said.

According to the specialist, smoking is widespread in Jordan due to high availability of cigarettes at cheap prices, and the fact that there are no clear or effective restrictions on the sale of smoke products to children under the age of 18. Furthermore, the most important figures that serve as role models for teenagers and children, such as a teachers and fathers, are smokers, adding to the prevalence of the problem.

Indeed, quitting smoking can be tricky and requires a strong will. Family and community support are essential, and public services exist to help quitters join Jordanians like Rababah and Abu Omair as successful ex-smokers. 

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