What frustrates me as a Muslim GP most of all? It is my Muslim patients getting indignant about nothing when I actually want them to get indignant about something important. What, God Willing, I hope to achieve in this monthly column is trying to differentiate this nothing from the something important.
Let us start with one of the `something important' category. Everybody knows its bad to smoke. We have all seen the media ads and probably the health warnings on cigarette packets about heart disease, cancers, emphysema and even impotence. However did you know that the equivalent of 500 people (a whole jumbo jet) die in the UK every day from smoking related diseases? More worryingly, this does not include those that are maimed and crippled, sometimes through passive smoking, and the widows, orphans and carers they leave behind.
Unfortunately these figures include more than their share of UK Muslims. At the last 2001 Census, 40% of UK based Bangladeshis were recorded as smokers. In fact, it shocks me how many Muslims (including Imams!) I catch smoking just outside of our mosques.
There are many ways you can help yourself or a loved one to give up smoking. Research shows that the best way is part of a structured programme usually involving some form of nicotine replacement therapy or less commonly medication. The last two are even available on prescription from your GP. Attempting this unaided through `going cold turkey' and trying nicotine replacement on its own are a lot less successful.
Nationally, general advice is available through www.quit.org.uk or through phoning the quitline 0800 00 20 00. Local health services are eager to help and most have specialised smoking services run through a large number of health professionals such as pharmacists, dentists and GPs. Ask your GP's surgery or pharmacist about how to contact these services or even directly refer you to them. Usually you will be given an appointment with a counsellor who will make a mutually agreed (usually six week) plan with you on the best way to quit and offer a recommendation for your treatment to your family doctor. They will support you throughout and I sincerely believe that they are now one of the easiest health services to access and obtain treatment from. In addition, if language is a problem they can even help find a counsellor who speaks in a language of your choice. Lastly, let your GP surgery know if, at six weeks you have given up.
You too can significantly change your health within six weeks.