Tobacco import and smoking were banned in Saudi Arabia from 1926-1960.Until then lung cancer was a rare event.From 1961 to 1984,tobacco import increased 40 folds.Lung cancer is now number four in the list of most common cancers in males in Saudi Arabia.The purpose of this study was to gauge how rife smoking is in the Saudi society.
Patients coming to our pulmonary function laboratory from all specialties,including general surgery,internal medicine and pulmonology were screened for the smoking habit over a period of 15 months.In all 1370 patients were studied.
The prevalence of the habit of smoking was 35% in males and 4% in females.The average age of this survey was 41.3 years and the greatest prevalence was in the youngest groups,20–29 years(51%)and 30-39 years(43%).There seemed to be no co-relation between level of education and the incidence of smoking in males. More alarmingly almost all of the female smokers were young and educated.
The prevalence of smoking in Saudis in this study is similar to others done recently in the region.
There is unequivocal evidence that cigarette smoking is associated with lung cancer,chronic bronchitis and premature death.It takes between 20 to 30 years of smoking for lung cancer to manifest itself. With the gradual rise of smoking in Saudi Arabia since the 1970s an epidemic of lung cancer may well be in the making.
R.N. Siddiqui, None.