Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 12, 2008

Friday December 12, 2008 – Issue: (1215), Volume 16 , From 11 December 2008 to 14 December 2008

by Saddam Ashmori For the Yemen Times


In the governorate of Amran, some 50 kilometers north of Sana’a, chewing qat and smoking among women is strongly disapproved of by society. Although only a few elder women would practice these habits in the past, nowadays more and more women of different ages chew qat and spark up their cigarettes and hookahs, the ancient Middle Eastern water pipe filled with sweetened tobacco, on a daily basis during social gatherings similar to those of men.

Elham, a university student says that she picked up the habit when she was in high school: “I liked qat because it helped me stay up late to study, particularly during exams. Now, I chew qat every day and in increasing quantities.”

Um Ammar says that she usually chews qat at her friend’s house. “I chew every day at the qat session and smoke my hookah as well,” she points out. “Girls like these sessions as it’s an opportunity for them to share their problems and they talk about different things including politics and gossip.”

Some girls say they are only victims, as they succumb to peer pressure. “One of my friends insisted that chew qat and smoke with her until I became addicted,” says Siham, another university student. “Now, I don’t believe I can ever give up chewing or smoking. I have tried, but unfortunately I couldn’t quit, although I know the risks of these habits. I chew qat in front of my family members but started smoking in secret.”

Najwa says that, after she completed high school, her family didn’t allow her to attend university. “I found myself always idle and bored and resorted to chewing qat and smoking with my friends. It helps me momentarily relax and to forget some of my troubles.”

Um Arwa says that she chews qat to keep slim. She says that she doesn’t have her supper because qat causes loss of appetite. “If I chew qat, I don’t eat supper and only eat a small portion at breakfast. This helps me to maintain my grace,” she points out.

Many girls in Amran lead a life of chewing and smoking with little regard to the dangers that result from such practices. Balqees Al-Masswari, a sociologist, says that the reason of this increasing trend is a vacuum in other forms of entertainment such as clubs for women. She says that it is widely thought that chewing qat and smoking bring about psychological relaxation, which prompts many girls to practice these habits. She also stressed that families are responsible for their daughters’ well-being.

“The absence of family scrutiny on the behavior of girls during their teenage years makes them subject to peer pressure with little awareness of its consequences. Some girls believe that these practices are part of a woman‘s freedom,” says Al-Masswari, adding, “Families should educate their daughters about the dangers of qat and smoking to health.”

General medical practitioner Dr. Faisal Makhidi confirms that chewing qat and smoking have many bad consequences on health. “Many girls who come to the hospital suffer from health problems due to qat and smoking such as pulmonary diseases, toothache and insomnia, apart from other serious ailments including cancer and liver diseases,” he says.

He maintains that smoking and chewing qat have many detrimental effects on pregnant women and their unborn child. In addition, the practices decrease the amount of breast milk during feeding and can even lead to infertility and schizophrenia.

For centuries, men in Yemen have gathered around hookahs to puff fruit-scented smoke and chew qat, talk and pass the time. Today, unaware of the devastating -quite possibly even deadly- consequences of the habit, women are increasingly taking it up as a favorite pastime.



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