Background: Narghile (waterpipe) smoking is increasing across the Eastern Mediterranean region (EMR), though little is known about the social attitudes and perceptions related to this method of tobacco use, and how those attitudes and perceptions are influenced by gender.
Methods: Data from two cross-sectional surveys conducted in 2003 in Aleppo, Syria, were used to examine these issues. Overall, 855 participants were included (439 men, 416 women; mean age, 24.4+/-7.1 years; response rate, 97%). The current analysis focuses on responses to four similar nine-item questions tapping perceptions related to narghile smoking by women or men, and cigarette smoking by women or men. Scores on the nine items were summed to yield a total score to gauge participants' perceptions about narghile and cigarette.
Results: Generally, participants were less positive about women smoking relative to men smoking, and cigarette smoking relative to narghile smoking. Cigarette smoking by women was the behavior least associated with positive perceptions. Individuals who resided in the city, were economically better-off, and were Christian, had higher perception scores (i.e., more positive attitudes) toward all forms of smoking, whereas older and married participants had higher perception scores for narghile only. Smoking status of participants, especially narghile smoking, was also associated with more positive perceptions toward smoking in general.
Conclusions: We conclude that preliminary analysis shows that views on different forms of smoking in Syria differ by gender and smoking status.