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11 December 2018 02:30 pm

Secondhand smoke in Qatar; effects, risks, implications and solutions

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Many people thinking that smoking is harmful just to the person who is smoking. Many haven’t even heard of secondhand smoke (also known as passive smoking) and are oblivious to where they are smoking and who they are smoking in front of. Many smoke in front of their children not really worrying about the harmful effects it’s having on them: mentally and physically. Many just don’t care.

What is secondhand smoke

Secondhand smoke is the smoke that is released from burning cigarettes, sheesha, pipes, cigars and other smokable tobacco products, and is also the smoke that is exhaled by the individual who is smoking. It is dangerous for anyone who inhales it. In fact, smoke from tobacco products may linger in the air for a few hours after someone has smoked it.

Secondhand smoke can be found in the homes and the work places of those that smoke. Other places where you can get exposed to secondhand smoke include restaurants, cafés bars and cars.

Why is secondhand smoke dangerous?

Second-hand smoke exposure

The smoke that comes from burning tobacco products or exhaled by a smoker, is made up of over 7,000 chemicals; hundreds of these chemicals are toxic while approximately 70 of them may cause cancer. These chemicals include: carbon monoxide (a chemical that can be found in car exhausts), ammonia (a chemical that is present in most toilet cleaning products) and arsenic (a chemical that is used in rat poison).

Exposure to this second-hand smoke is detrimental to the health of all those around smokers, and this includes, adults, children and babies.

Even a little exposure to secondhand smoke is dangerous for your health. According to a survey, more than 2,500,000 non-smokers have died after medical conditions they developed after their exposure to secondhand smoke world over.

Can secondhand smoke penetrate through walls?

Though secondhand smoke cannot actually penetrate and go through walls, it can, however, can infiltrate into other rooms and even other housing units through

  • cracks under doors
  • spaces among window panes
  • small cracks in the wall plaster
  • hallways
  • staircases
  • open doors
  • open windows
  • pipes
  • electrical sockets
  • ventilation systems

Smoke from tobacco-related products can also get absorbed by furniture, toys and clothes and the chemicals in the smoke can actually continue to be recycles within the air for hours or even days before it disappears from the atmosphere. Ventilating the room doesn't always help in this case.

Qatar-based studies on secondhand smoke

Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2013 - Qatar

GATS 2013 results revealed a high level of exposure to secondhand smoke in homes and outdoors:

Cigarette related secondhand smoke

secondhand smoke in qatar
  1. 12.0% of adults (8.3% of Qatari, 13.8% of Non-Qatari) who worked indoors were exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke at the workplace.
  2. 16.8% of adults (16.7% of Qatari, 16.9% of Non-Qatari) were exposed to tobacco smoke at home.
  3. 25.9% of adults (29.2% of Qatari, 24.1% of Non-Qatari) were exposed in restaurants.

Shisha related secondhand smoke

Shisha secondhand smoke
  1. 15.7% of Qatari and 28.1% of non-Qatari shisha smokers smoke at home, thus contributing to the exposure of secondhand smoke to non-smokers.
  2. Approximately, 85% of men smoked shisha in a cafe, while approximately 63% of women smoked shisha at home.

Local survey to determine pregnant Qatari womens’ exposure to secondhand smoke

Second-handsmoke and pregnant women in Qatar

A local survey in Qatar was conducted in 2011 – 2012 to determine the level of Qatari womens’ exposure to secondhand smoke from cigarettes and tobacco while inside their homes and outside. 357 pregnant Qatari women were part of the survey; none of these women were smokers. Through the survey, it was determined that 32.8% of their husbands smoked cigarettes and 17.4% of their husbands smoked shisha, thereby, exposing these pregnant women to secondhand smoke on an almost daily basis.

It has also been determined that Qatar ranks in third place in terms of worldwide exposure of secondhand smoke among pregnant women at 80%, with Jordan in second place with 82% and Greece in first place with 95%. (Source)

Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) 2018 - Qatar

GYTS is conducted every five years and this was the fourth time it was held in Qatar this year by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH). A total of 2,328 Qatari and non-Qatari students from grades 7 to 9 participated in the survey; 1,608 of these students were aged between 13 and 15 years of age. The survey concluded that

  1. 24.5% of students were exposed to secondhand smoking at home
  2. 41.8% to tobacco smoke inside indoor public places.
  3. 55.6% of students thought secondhand smoking was harmful to their health
  4. 71.5% were in favour of banning smoking inside indoor public places.

Study on the ‘Prevalence of smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke among Qatari School Children’

Qatari school children

In a study on the ‘Prevalence of smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke among Qatari School Children: Results from the pilot phase of the National Epidemiological Study of Lung Health among Qatari national school children’ by Aspetar, Qatar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital, Qatar Primary Health Care, Hamad Medical Corporation, Doha, Qatar Sidra Medical and Research Center, data was collected from 734 Qatari school children (321 boys and 413 girls enrolled in government schools in grades 7 to 12. Results of the study indicated that approximately 72% of these children had been exposed to secondhand smoke.

How is secondhand smoke harmful?

Let us now talk about how exposure to secondhand smoke is harmful and the risks this exposure may cause on the health of adults and children.


Adults who are exposed to secondhand smoke may, in the long-term and depending on how much they have inhaled over the years, suffer from lung cancer, heart disease and stroke and are at a greater risk of suffering from a heart attack.


Women who smoke during pregnancy or are exposed to secondhand smoke, are more likely to have babies with low birth weight and there is also a risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) which is a leading cause of death amongst healthy infants, and defined as an unexpected, sudden and unexplained infant death.

There are chemicals in second-hand smoke that can affect infants’ brains in such a way that it affects its regulation of their breathing.


Children who breathe in secondhand smoke frequently may suffer from respiratory infections like pneumonia or bronchitis, ear infections, fluid in the ear (if this recurs, an operation to put ear tubes in the ear is performed), sneezing, wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing, and asthma attacks (a severe attack can put a child’s life at risk).

What is Qatar doing to curb exposure to secondhand smoke?

The MoPH runs an ongoing awareness campaign to prevent smoking in Qatar, especially indoors to discourage smoking and the exposure to secondhand smoke.

  • Smoking is prohibited in closed public spaces.
  • A ban has been enforced on smoking in vehicles with children under the age of 18.
  • There are heavy fines of up to QR 3,000 if anyone is caught smoking in closed public places.
  • License cancellation of cafes that have closed rooms or cabins segregated for smoking shisha.
  • Hamad Medical Corporation has a Smoking Cessation Clinic to help people quit smoking.

What you can do to eliminate secondhand smoke from your life

Eliminate second-hand smoke in Qatar

Since it has been predetermined that exposure to secondhand smoke at any level is dangerous, and harmful to both adults and children, the only way to protect those that don’t smoke is to completely remove smoking from all homes, public places and workplaces because even if you open windows in your home, workplace or car, and use air filters, exposure to second-hand smoke is still present.

Quit smoking

Be a role model for other people. If you are a smoker, the best thing you can do for your health and the health of those around you is quite smoking.

Stop smoking in confined spaces

Second-hand smoke exposure in cars

Do not smoke or allow anyone to smoke in your home or your car. Even at the workplace, encourage people who smoke to do it outside.

Stop smoking in pregnancy

Smoking is harmful not only for the mother-to-be but also for the unborn baby and can cause serious medical conditions for the baby including low birth weight.

Don’t smoke in the presence of infants and children, even if its outdoors

Don’t smoke around infants and children even when outdoors as it exposes them to second-hand smoke, and puts them at risk of developing medical conditions that may be detrimental.

Lay your baby on its back

When you put your baby down to sleep, make sure its on its back to avoid the risk of SIDS.

Do you believe in secondhand smoke? Do you think it's harmful? Do you smoke? What do you think of this article? Did it help you to gain more knowledge on secondhand smoke? Do let us know your thoughts in our Comments section. Like and share the article - it keeps us going!