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Female smokers on the Rise in Yemen; Shisha use Increasing among employed Females
  Written By: Assma Almasmari ( YEMEN POST STAFF)
  Article Date: September 22, 2008 


In the past, people believed that only men smoke in Yemen, however during the last six years that trend has changed and women have started to smoke as well. It was looked at as a shame and disgrace for women to smoke, as relatives would be ashamed if they knew that a female relative was a smoker.  Today, more and more women are becoming smokers in Yemen according to Ministry of Health Specialist Amira Al-Saqqaf. “A number of them start smoking because of peer pressure and the absence of guardians, which gives them more chances of not being caught and keeping it a secret,” she said. She mentions that young girls start smoking as early as 14 and peer pressure influences them to start at such a young age, even though they do not want to smoke.

According to Health Promote International, 27 percent of males in Yemen are smokers, while 10 percent of females smoke. Previous reports by the same organization showed that only 4 percent of females were smokers, therefore increasing the percentage greatly in less than seven years. “Most of the smoking among women happens because females want to feel as part of a group and never want to be looked at as a lonely person," said Moneera Ali Al-Hamdani a pharmacist in Sana'a. Al-Hamdani explained that pressure on females from their families is also a major reason for the spread of smoking among women, as females feel depressed and do not know what to turn to. "Smoking is better that suicide in cases of depression. These days depression is very spread and I would rather see them smoking than risking their life for simple problems." The institution mentions that today 1.2 billion smokers are spread around the world; of which most (800 million) live in developing countries, while the remaining 400 million in non developed countries. 

Other tobacco usage such as shisha has also seen a spread among women in Yemen. Dating back to the late 90's, it was shame for teenage and single women to smoke or use shisha, whereas now it has turned into a fashion trend that females who work see it as a sign of loyalty and prestige. "I would have never allowed my daughter to smoke or use shisha in the past, and I thought it was shameful if the news came out of the open," said Arwa Ali Al-Sanabani, a mother of four females, of which three are smokers. "These days my youngest daughter always asks to go out with friends for indoor shisha, and it is very difficult for us to refuse their demands. I think it is the change of time and people."

Dr. Bawazeer from Hadramout University conducted a study in the late 90’s on smoking among school teens in Yemen in general and in the south in specific, and reported that about 19.6% of secondary school students in Aden were smokers, with the number of female student receiving nearly forty percent of that. The report mentions that the number will continue to grow due to the spread of social problems and the increase of teen pressure as years pass.

In early 2005, the Parliament finalized the discussion to ban smoking in public places and preventing smoking by the promotion of advertisements. Parliament prevented the import, manufacture and sale of tobacco and recommended that awareness about the harms of smoking be raised among the public. Parliament also clarified that the crisis must be looked at seriously, and threatened that it might harm the health of young boys and girls in the future who choose to start smoking at a young and tender age.

The Hadramout University study also showed that smoking among secondary school teachers was (8%), none of the female teachers were smokers, giving the prevalence of smoking in male teachers of 14%. The highest smoking prevalence was observed in male teachers over 50 (17%), those who teach social subjects (18%), and those who have at least secondary school education (46%). This in result shows that the increase in female smokers is not connected to female teachers who smoke, but rather than peers and social problems the person might face in everyday life.

Financially, Abdullrahim Alfaqi, secretary-general of the National Society for Fighting Smoking claims that people in Yemen consume YR 120 billion on cigarettes yearly. He mentions that such a high spending on smoking in a poor country as Yemen can make life matters worse and give families more suffering to their already poor financial situation.

A research, published by The Lancet Medical Journal, says that over 5 million people died from smoking worldwide in 2004 — 2.61 million in developing countries and 2.39 million in rich nations. Newly developing countries seem to be the most at risk of smoking as forecasts show that 10 million people are predicted to die yearly by the year 2025 in developing countries. About 87% of lung cancer deaths are caused by smoking. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women, and is one of the most difficult cancers to treat.

Based on data collected from 1995 to 1999, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC estimated that adult male smokers lost an average of 13.2 years of life and female smokers lost 14.5 years of life because of smoking.