Out of 68 countries, Lebanon ranks first in terms of shisha smoking among youth, according to a study by the American University of Beirut (AUB).
While it’s no secret that smoking, particularly shisha, is widespread among adults in Lebanon, the unfortunate reality is that the younger age groups of “youth” take up an alarming portion of the country’s smokers.
The Global School-Based Student Health Survey (GSHS) of the World Health Organization reveals that 40.9% of male minors and 32.9% of female minors in Lebanon are regular smokers.
Together, minors represent more than a whopping 36% (a third) of Lebanon’s total smoking population. These include adolescents who started smoking at a very young age.
What’s more concerning about these numbers than their obvious scale is that they date back to 2017, which means they have probably grown.
The WHO conducts the GSHS in Lebanon every five years in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education.
The survey involves private and public schools across Lebanon, and the results of the next iteration, which should come out within the next two or three years, are expected to be catastrophic.
Rana Saleh, the Advocacy and Evidence Lead Specialist at the Knowledge to Policy Center of AUB echoed this serious concern to Al-Akhbar.
“These dangerous numbers necessitate the return to the measures of smoking prevention in order to avoid their rise, especially since two-thirds of non-adults in the survey declared that they started smoking before the age of 14,” Saleh said.
Even more dangerously, according to the GSHS, 2.7% of females minors and 6.7% of males minors in Lebanon smoke midwakh; an Arabian version of pipe smoking that involves a mixture of tobacco, herbs, and leaves, and high concentrations of nicotine.
“These numbers,” Saleh finds, “portend the possibility of an increase in the number of smokers.”
She also notes that these percentages are dangerous because “whoever starts at a young age with this amount of nicotine consumption will move to other forms later on.”
Therefore, “it is imperative for all parties, including parents and schools, to exercise strict control, and for restaurants and cafes to strictly refrain from serving hookah to non-adults.”
On that note, Lebanon recently allowed restaurants and cafes to return to serving hookahs to customers after the COVID-19 outbreak necessitated a ban over the “social” smoking instrument.
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