Intended for healthcare professionals

Analysis And Comment Public health

Influence of Islam on smoking among Muslims

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 02 February 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:291
  1. Nazim Ghouri, senior house officer in medicine1,
  2. Mohammed Atcha, medical student2,
  3. Aziz Sheikh, professor of primary care research and development (
  1. 1 Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Western General Hospital, Edinburgh EH4 2XU
  2. 2 University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9DX
  3. 3 Division of Community Health Sciences, General Practice Section, University of Edinburgh
  1. Correspondence to: A Sheikh
  • Accepted 8 October 2005

Smoking prevalence is generally high among Muslims. An awareness of their religious beliefs and rulings might increase the effectiveness of antismoking campaigns

A fifth of the world's population is Muslim,1 and most Muslims live in areas where the prevalence of smoking is high and often increasing.2 But even among the many Muslims living in Europe, smoking prevalence (particularly among men) remains high. For example, in England in 2004 the overall prevalence of smoking was 40% in Bangladeshi men and 29% in Pakistani men compared with 24% among the male general population.3 Smoking related disease represents a substantial burden on health services in Western countries, and is estimated to cost the NHS £1.7bn (€2.5bn; $3bn) a year.4 Reducing smoking prevalence is thus a priority for Western (and many other) governments. Knowledge of Muslim religious beliefs and customs is important to understanding smoking behaviour and considering how best to deliver appropriate health promotional messages and interventions.5 6

Smoking patterns

The table summarises available data on smoking prevalence for the 30 countries with the highest proportion of Muslims, identified through the 2005 US Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook and IslamicWeb.1 7 Direct comparison of reported smoking prevalence between countries may be difficult because different studies, even if conducted in the same year, tend to use different methods for sampling, defining smoking, and ascertaining smoking status. Despite these limitations, the prevalence of smoking for most countries is higher than in the United Kingdom (where overall smoking prevalence in 2001 was 27%, 28% in men and 26% in women).2 India, which has a sizeable Muslim population (estimated at 144 755 428 in 2002) but Muslims are in a minority (13.4% of the total population), has a smoking prevalence of 29.5% in men and 2.5% in women; data are unavailable by …

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