Smoke-free Ramadhan and Beyond


Dr Mohamad Haniki Nik Mohamed
Majority of Muslim smokers are refraining themselves from smoking during the daytime in observance of the fasting month of Ramadhan. This actually takes a lot of will power since nicotine addiction has complex physiological and physchological components. Owing to the depleting level of nicotine during the day, some smokers may experience nicotine withdrawal symptoms, including irritability, anger, restlessness, impatience, insomnia and difficulty concentrating. Due to the craving of nicotine, most smokers reach for their cigarettes after breaking of fast, some may even do so within a few minutes after consuming food or drinks! 

It has been reported that about one third of smokers try to quit smoking, but only 20 percent of them seek help. Less than 10 percent of smokers who attempt to quit on their own are successful over the long term (Rigotti NA, N Engl J Med, Feb 2002). To assist smokers to quit, the Ministry of Health Malaysia has set up more than 100 Quit Smoking Clinics throughout the country since 1999. Trained health care professionals running the clinics employed behavioural (counselling) and medicines (nicotine replacement therapy or NRT, e.g., nicotine gum) as the main methods to aid smoking cessation. Studies have demonstrated that NRT alone approximately doubles the one-year rates of abstinence. Success rate is even greater when the therapy includes counselling. 

In 1995 the National Muzakarah Committee for Islamic Affairs declared that smoking is haram. In the Holy Qur'an, Allah Ta'ala states "He has allowed for them all good and lawful things and forbids for them all evil and unlawful things" (Surah Al-'Araaf (157). While in Al-Baqarah (195): "And do not throw yourselves into destruction", and "Do not waste. Verily the wasters are the brothers of syaitan (devil)" (Surah Al-Israa (26-27).

Hence, it is time for smokers to seize the opportunity during Ramadhan to totally abstain from cigarette smoking. One may say that quitting for good should be relatively easier during Ramadhan since smokers are already refraining from smoking for more than 12 hours or half a day during fasting. With all the proven health and economic benefits of stopping smoking, wouldn't it be the right thing to do? Not only the risk of tobacco-related diseases would be reduced, but children and spouses of smokers and non-smokers alike could be spared from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke. The very least, the fasting performed could then be seen as having a positive and significant impact on the smokers' lives. 

Dr Mohamad Haniki Nik Mohamed
Clinical and Administrative Pharmacy Discipline 
School of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Universiti Sains Malaysia
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