Background: Tobacco consumption is a major risk factor for morbidity and mortality. The Saudi Ministry of Health started a national tobacco control program in 2002 with increased and intensified efforts after joining the World Health Organization Framework Convention for Tobacco Control in 2005.
Methods: In order to assess the status of tobacco consumption in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), we conducted a survey on 10735 individuals aged 15 years or older (5253 men and 5482 women) which was performed between April and June 2013. The Saudi Health Interview Survey had a multistage sampling and was nationally representative. Data were collected through face-to-face interviews. The survey included questions on socio-demographic characteristics, tobacco consumption, diet, physical activity, health care utilization, different health-related behaviors, and self-reported chronic conditions.
Results: Overall prevalence of current smoking was 12.2 % and males were more likely to smoke than females (21.5 % vs. 1.1 %). Mean age of smoking initiation was 19.1 years (±6.5 years) with 8.9 % of ever smokers starting before the age of 15 years. Daily shisha smoking was reported by 4.3 % of the population (7.3 % of men and 1.3 % of women). Around 1.4 % of population (2.6 % of men and 0.1 % of women) were daily smokers of cigarette/cigar and shisha. Receiving advice for quitting smoking by health care professionals during the last 12 months was reported by 53.2 % (95 % confidence interval [CI]: 49.8-56.5) of ever smokers. Among ever smokers, 51.3 % of individuals reportedly attempted to quit smoking during the last 12 months. Of those, 25.3 % were successful by the time of the survey. Around 23.3 % of the entire population, 32.3 % of men and 13.5 % of women, were exposed to secondhand smoke for at least one day during the past 7 days at home, work, or school.
Conclusions: Although the indicators of tobacco consumption in KSA are better than most of the countries of the Middle East region and high-income countries, there are many potential areas for improvement. Our findings call for the development and implementation of programs to prevent smoking initiation and encourage quitting. To achieve its health goals, KSA may consider increasing taxation on tobacco products as well as other measures.