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Tob Control. 2006 Jun;15 Suppl 1:i24-9.

The tobacco epidemic in Syria.

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Syrian Center for Tobacco Studies, Aleppo, Syria.



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.


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.


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.


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.

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