The tobacco epidemic in Syria

K. D. Ward, T. Eissenberg, S. Rastam, T. Asfar, F. Mzayek, M. F. Fouad, F. Hammal, J. Mock, Wasim Maziak

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


Background: The Syrian Center for Tobacco Studies (SCTS) was established in response to the smoking epidemic in Syria and lack of local knowledge and expertise to confront it. Objectives: To (1) study tobacco use and local smoking practices using both qualitative and quantitative research methods; (2) develop and test an effective smoking cessation intervention for the Syrian environment; and (3) train Syrian researchers. Methods and results: The Aleppo Household Survey involved a representative sample of adults in Aleppo (2038 subjects, 45.2% men, mean age 35.3 years, response rate 86%). The prevalence of cigarette smoking was 56.9% among men and 17.0% among women, while the prevalence of waterpipe smoking was 20.2% among men and 4.8% among women. Daily use predominated for cigarettes (29.0%), while the opposite was seen in waterpipe use with 10.6% smoking occasionally. Interest in quitting was greater for cigarette than waterpipe smokers (74.0% v 48.6%), while quit rates were higher for waterpipe compared to cigarettes (28.2% v 16.5%). In-depth ethnographic interviews with smokers show that smoking waterpipe is often viewed as an aesthetic enjoyable experience, while smoking cigarettes is viewed as a mundane anxiety-relieving addiction. Clinical laboratory studies reveal that both waterpipe and cigarette smokers in Syria are exposed to smoke toxicants and exhibit dependence symptoms. Conclusions: All these data have been used iteratively to adapt smoking cessation interventions from developed countries to suit the local Syrian environment. Research conducted in the SCTS to date has provided a fertile training ground for Syrian researchers, as well as for the building of regional collaborations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)i24-i29
JournalTobacco Control
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - Jun 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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