Raafat Alawi Raafat Alawi teaches Sociology and Arabic at the Berean Academy in Elbing

In The Arab World Vapers Are The New Drug Addicts

2 min read

Electronic cigarettes (ecigs) are fairly new in the Arab world. Their main appeal is allowing smokers to get their nicotine hit while avoiding all the nefarious effects of regular cigarettes. That ecigs are much safer than cigarettes is a given and one supported by health organisations, notably The Royal College of Physicians.

It’s surprising, and disconcerting, then that vapers in the Arab world are stigmatized and called “muhashisheen”, the same label applied to those who smoke hashish (cannabis) using shishas (Arabic hookahs).

Those using the ecig as a cessation tool, desperately trying to give up a life-long habit, have had to vape inside or away from public while smokers are allowed to smoke in cafes and restaurants.

Worse yet is those who only vape 0mg nicotine, literally exhaling nothing but propylene glycol, yet considered more of a public menace than smokers who pollute public spaces with second-hand smoke. The Arab world is still way behind when it comes to enforcing a public ban on smoking.

Tobacco companies in the Middle East have done their fair share to help impede any ban and indirectly contribute to the negative image of ecigs. The Middle East and Africa are the only two regions in the world today where cigarette sales are increasing.

Prices are so low in the Middle East that high taxation on tobacco barely makes a dent. A dangerous mix of no regulation and a 1000% profit margin are just too enticing for kingdoms and governments to put peoples health first. So, the more people want to think ecigs are drugs the merrier.

For now.

A trip to Egypt is a trip to another planet. People smoking in cinemas, cafes, restaurants and don’t be surprised to find cigarette butts in museums or outside pyramids. Meanwhile, ecigs can be tucked away after use and leave a smaller carbon footprint.

I am not advocating ecigs as a zero risk alternative to regular cigarettes, but their is no doubt that they are less hazardous to health than cigarettes and Arab people should be made aware of this fact.

Instead, what has been called a liable nicotine replacement therapy by Public Health England is vilified and, as Arab people, we are misinformed to the point where it becomes detrimental to our health.

As Internet access has become widely available and with the plethora of ways to circumvent restrictions it’s incumbent on each of us to reach their own conclusions using this, hitherto unavailable, wealth of sources, information and facts, even if that means incurring hostile looks by the locals.

The Shisha is embedded in local culture and continues evoke an organic pastime among Egyptians, a pastime that connects the young and old with little health consequences despite growing evidence that smoke produced by hookahs cause more harm than cigarettes. BD

And here’s where ecigs can also reduce this harm while satiating cannabis users. The new Cannabidiol eliquid or CBD is a purer form of cannabis less the smoke just like nicotine eliquid. Again, no advocation here! But it’s a safer alternative.

It should be also mentioned that both types of eliquid – nicotine & CBD – mimic smoking. Both produce vapour in copious amounts and one of the reasons many have been able to stay off cigs.

In Cairo the smog from cars is indistinguishable from smoke. Walk down Midaq Alley and you’ll notice a thin layer of smoke that permeates a few meters over your head. Is it smog or is it smoke?Smoking in public

Smoking in public is so socially acceptable that you can never really tell whether you’re inhaling second-hand smoke or smog and both are equally harmful. This also can be drastically reduced since propylene glycol, nicotine and eliquid vapour don’t contain the toxic chemicals attached to nanoparticles in smoke.

So, am I suggesting everyone in the Arab world go out and buy ecigs? No. I’m saying what medical professionals in the west are saying. Ecigs are a safer alternative. This knowledge needs to be readily available in the Arab world.

Arabs should be allowed to make an informed decision about their health without the scaremongering or being ostracised and called drug addicts. If a device could help someone give up a lethal habit then it shouldn’t be clouded in misinformation.

Raafat Alawi
Raafat Alawi Raafat Alawi teaches Sociology and Arabic at the Berean Academy in Elbing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *