2007 OPEN FORUM Abstracts
SMOKING AMONG SAUDI ARABIAN STUDENTS STUDYING IN THE UNITED STATES
K. S. Alsowayegh1, L. Goodfellow1
Background: The purpose of this study is to quantitatively describe smoking behavior and reasons for increases in smoking initiation in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia in a group of Saudi students studying in the United States.
Method: There are more than 10,000 Saudi Arabian students enrolled in colleges and universities in the United States. This sample included 1096 male and female Saudis, 18 years old or older here in the US. A one-time only email invitation asking for participation was sent by the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission-Washington, DC. Participation required completing a brief questionnaire on a secure website during a 3-week period from May 07 to May 28, 2007.
Results: The overall prevalence of current smoking was 24%, 95% were males and 5% females. Eleven percent of participants indicated that they used to smoke and 65% never smoked. Forty-seven percent of current and ex-smokers smoked at least half a pack a day. Seventy percent first started smoking before age of 19, and 89% smoked water-pipe (shisha). Peer pressure was a major influence with the majority of smokers (78%) indicating that most of their closest friends were smokers. Eighty-four percent smoke more when they are with their friends who smoke, and 54% feel the hardest thing about quitting is that all their friends smoke. The number one reason for smoking was to experience the tastes and flavors (37%), and to experience a new adventure (32%). On average, (71%) believe the main reasons for not smoking or quitting were health concerns and religious beliefs which may be attributable to the Islamic culture in Saudi Arabia.
Conclusion: Cigarette smoking is an important public health problem in the US and in Saudi Arabia. More intensive and comprehensive tobacco control efforts with interventions are needed to decrease the prevalence of smoking.