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Smoking Habit among Omani Students: Environmental Sciences Section Makes a Major Breakthrough in a Research Project at Higher College of Technology

03 June 2018

The research project entitled SMOKING HABIT AMONG OMANI STUDENTS has made outstanding achievements in its first phase that coincides with the ‘World’s NO Tobacco Day (31 May, 2018)’ themed ‘the impact tobacco has on the cardiovascular health of people worldwide’.

The study aims to quantify tobacco smokers among Omani students at HCT, recommend health promotion interventions for smoking cessation, spread public awareness and educate the nation about smoking consequences at early ages. The project can serve as a pilot study at HCT that can be further extended to all academic institutions and schools in the Sultanate of Oman.

In Oman smoking starts to be a critical public health issue according to the national oncology centre (NOC) at the Royal hospital (2016), which spends more than 30% of its budget on cancer treatment. It is expected that lung cancer disease, with which 97% of the diagnosed cases are smokers, will be the most common cancer in Oman in the next 3 years

Permission to conduct this study was granted from the Dean’s office at the HCT after following all the ethical norms and required procedures. More than 1000 students participated in the study. Participants were approached randomly in 6 different campaign sites within the college’s departments and centers between January and May in the course of the academic year 2017–2018.

 More than 1000 urine samples had been collected, initially analyzed in Environmental Sciences Section (ESS) laboratories for the confirmation and quantification of nicotine (a potent toxic constituent of tobacco) wherein results were immediately disclosed to participants, and samples were stored for further analysis of other toxic substances known to contaminate tobacco such as lead, arsenic, cadmium, zinc and nickel. The sampling and nicotine analysis have been performed for a span of 10 days on an average of 9 hours per day while analysis of other toxic substances is still in progress.

 

 

During the sampling stage, students were verbally briefed by the investigators (researchers, academic staff and students volunteers from ESS). Banners and video presentation were also displayed for the same purpose.

To be a participant in the study students had to (1) acknowledge that they are aware of the study’s objectives, (2) provide a urine sample and (3) complete a 32-item online questionnaire on smoking habit designed on WHO guidelines at the campaigns’ sites.  

To attract participants, treats were offered with entry voucher for winning an exciting prize. The winner was chosen by lucky draw and the exciting prices included MOBILE PHONES, WRIST WATCHES, MASERS and MOBILE and FUEL TOP-UP SCRATCH CARDS.

 Analysis for the quantification of toxic substances is taking place both in ESS laboratories and other labs outside the college in order to cross check the results.

 

The project is expected to provide a new insight based on biological samples and comprehensive statistical evidences following World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on the smoking scales, behavior, self-perception, causes and rate of tobacco use among young adults in the colleges. Recommendation to authorities and public awareness are expected to help reduce the burden cost and improve the health of Omani youngsters and the general population.

The initial trend of the results reveals higher percentage of smokers among Omani students than the projected one in literature. Furthermore, toxic substances known to contaminate tobacco such as lead, arsenic, cadmium, zinc and nickel were also found to be in high concentration among some smokers under study compared to the reported values of the smokers worldwide in the literature. Detailed statistical analysis of the results is in progress and will be published soon.    

The team is grateful to the HCT Deanship for allowing a unique opportunity to conduct this research project. It is with immense gratitude that the research team acknowledge the contributions of project sponsors PDO, Haya Water and TRC. The team thanks the ESS technicians, students, and volunteers for their invaluable layer of valuable support. The research team has benefited immensely from Ministry of Defense (Laboratories of Engineering Services) which has been particularly helpful in offering advanced analytical technology for samples’ analysis. The team members are also thankful for Oman Environmental Service Holding Company S.A.O.C (be’ah) for their assistance in disposing the generated waste. A special mention here is for the students who participated in the project. The project investigators are thankful to all those who were directly and indirectly involved in one way or the other for the successful completion of the project.

 

Group photo of the smoking project team marking the end of phase one after collecting1000+ samples

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