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O: Smoking, quitting factors, and cigarette prices – a Twitter-based survey of the Saudi population

Introduction: Despite the noticeable increase in public awareness, Saudi Arabia remains fourth in tobacco import globally. A limited number of studies have focused on ex-smokers in Saudi Arabia. No studies have been conducted on the correlation between any possible cigarette price increase and its effects on cigarette consumption.

Objectives: To determine the prevalence of cigarette smoking in Saudi Arabia, to analyse the sociodemographic characteristics of ex-smokers and to predict the effect of price increase on cigarette consumption.

Materials and methods: This is a cross-sectional study, in which a new questionnaire was developed and distributed electronically through different popular Twitter accounts. The questionnaire was written in Arabic and included information on demographic and socioeconomic factors, smoking history and personal opinion on the effect of price increase on cigarette consumption.

Results: The results of 2076 questionnaires showed that 808 (39%) were current smokers, 460 (22%) were ex-smokers, while another 808 (39%) never smoked. In the multivariate analysis for reasons to stop smoking, it has been found that quitting was not influenced by gender, income or age at onset of smoking. Interestingly, older and less-educated individuals were more likely to quit. Religious and social reasons were behind the decision to quit for the majority of ex-smokers. When asked about the price of cigarettes that will lead to smoking cessation, 443 smokers (55%) expected that a price ≥ 8.27 US Dollars (30 Saudi Riyals) per pack will make them quit.

Conclusions: So far, social and religious reasons have been motivating Saudi smokers to quit. However, increasing the price of popular cigarettes pack from 2.67 (10 Saudi Riyals) to 8.27 (30 Saudi Riyals) US Dollars is expected to lead to smoking cessation in a large number of smokers.

Acknowledgements: This project has been performed under the supervision of Professor Ali H Hajeer and Dr Hana Fakhoury. Dr Hani Tamim performed the statistical analysis and Ms Sarah AlTraif has done a great job in the data collection.

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