Smoking habits in the Middle East and North Africa: results of the BREATHE study

Respir Med. 2012 Dec:106 Suppl 2:S16-24. doi: 10.1016/S0954-6111(12)70011-2.


Few recent comparative data exist on smoking habits in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The objective of this analysis was to evaluate smoking patterns in a large general population sample of individuals aged ≥ 40 years in ten countries in the region (Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey and United Arab Emirates), together with Pakistan, using a standardised methodology. A random sample of 457,258 telephone numbers was generated and called. This identified 65,154 eligible subjects, of whom 62,086 agreed to participate. A screening questionnaire was administered to each participant, which included six questions relating to cigarette consumption and waterpipe use. The age- and gender-adjusted proportion of respondents reporting current or past smoking of cigarettes or waterpipes was 31.2% [95% CI: 30.9-31.6%]. This proportion was significantly higher (p < 0.001) in men (48.0%) than in women (13.8%), but no relevant differences were observed between age groups. Smoking rates were in general lowest in the Maghreb countries and Pakistan and highest in the Eastern Mediterranean countries, ranging from 15.3% in Morocco to 53.9% in Lebanon. Consumption rates were 28.8% [28.4-29.2%] for cigarette smoking and 3.5% [3.4-3.6%] for waterpipe use. Use of waterpipes was most frequent in Saudi Arabia (8.5% of respondents) but remained low in the Maghreb countries (< 1.5%). Cumulative cigarette exposure was high, with a mean number of pack · years smoked of 18.5 ± 20.5 for women and 29.1 ± 26.2 for men. In conclusion, smoking is a major health issue in the MENA region.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Africa, Northern / epidemiology
  • Age Distribution
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Middle East / epidemiology
  • Pakistan / epidemiology
  • Sex Distribution
  • Smoking / epidemiology*