Objective: The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has made tobacco use prevention a primary health issue. UNRWA provides education, health, relief and social services in five fields of operation: Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The purpose of this paper is to compare tobacco use among Palestine refugee students and students in the general population of the five fields of operation.
Methods: Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) data were collected from representative samples of students in UNRWA schools in each of the five fields of operation in 2008. For comparison, previous data are included from GYTS conducted in Gaza Strip, Lebanon, and the West Bank (2005) and in Jordan and Syria (2007). Data are presented for three groups of students: refugees attending schools within and outside the camps and non-refugee students in the general population.
Results: In each of the five fields of operation, there was no difference in current cigarette smoking, current use of shisha, or susceptibility to initiate smoking among the three groups of students. Cigarette smoking and susceptibility was lowest in the Gaza Strip and highest in the West Bank; shisha use was lowest in the Gaza Strip but over 30% in Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank. Exposure to secondhand smoke in public places was greater than 60% in almost all sites. Exposure to indirect advertising was almost 10%.
Conclusions: The similarity in tobacco use among the three groups of students suggests that a coordinated plan between the UNRWA and the governmental authority could be most beneficial in reducing the burden of tobacco-related morbidity and mortality.