Engaging men in health

March 2009

Research

Smoking patterns and readiness to quit

A study of the Australian Arabic community

Volume 38, No.3, March 2009 Pages 154-161

Seham Girgis

Armita Adily

Maria-Jose Velasco

Frances L Garden

Nicholas A Zwar

Bin B Jalaludin

Jeanette E Ward

Background

Smoking cessation interventions have typically focused on majority populations who, in Australia, are English speaking. There has been an overall decline in the prevalence of smoking in the Australian community. However, there remains a relative paucity of useful information about tobacco use and the effectiveness of tobacco interventions among specific ethnic minorities.

Objective/s

To determine associations of tobacco use and tobacco control indicators for Arabic speakers seen in the Australian general practice setting.

Methods

A cross sectional study in a consecutive sample of Arabic patients (n=1371) attending the practices of 29 Arabic speaking general practitioners in Sydney, New South Wales.

Results

Twenty-nine (53.7%) of 54 eligible Arabic speaking GPs in southwest Sydney participated in this study. Of 1371 patients seen, 29.7% were smokers. Smokers were more likely to report poorer health (χ2=21.7, df=1, p<0.001); 35.7% reported high nicotine dependence. Dependence was more in men (χ2=11.7, df=1, p<001) and those who reported poorer health (χ2=4.9, df=1, p<0.03); 35.9% had attempted to quit in the previous year; 17% were in preparation stage of change; 42.7% recalled quit advice. Poorer self reported health status (AOR=2.13, 95% CI: 1.14-3.97, p=0.017) and unemployment (AOR=1.69, 95% CI: 1.51–4.90, p=0.033) were independent predictors of advice from a health professional, most often a GP (71%).

Conclusion

Our study confirms previous reports that the proportion of self reported current smokers among the Arabic community is higher than for the Anglo-European majority. There is a need for ethno specific campaigns in tobacco control.

Smoking cessation interventions have typically focused on majority populations who, in Australia, are English speaking. Although there has been an overall decline in the prevalence of smoking,1,2 there remains a relative paucity of useful information about tobacco use among specific ethnic minorities.3,4 In New South Wales, certain ethnic groups, as defined by their original country of birth outside of Australia, persistently exhibit high rates of smoking in population based studies compared with the Anglo-Celtic majority.5 Tobacco use persists in its social acceptability among people from Arabic background compared to communities more readily reached by tobacco control efforts.6–9 Arabic people consider smoking as a social activity and a form of entertainment which promotes relaxation.10–15 In addition, alternative sources of nicotine such as narghile (tobacco placed on coals and smoked through water via a pipe) have regained popularity in the Eastern Mediterranean region and the Indian subcontinent.16 In Australia, it appears that people from an Arabic background are less aware than the general population of the health risks of smoking.7,14 Our study was designed in collaboration with Arabic speaking general practitioners to further illuminate the scope for tobacco control among their patients.

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Correspondence afp@racgp.org.au

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