Impact of COVID-19 lockdown on smoking (waterpipe and cigarette) and participants' BMI across various sociodemographic groups in Arab countries in the Mediterranean Region

Regional CORONA COOKING Survey Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


INTRODUCTION: Tobacco smokers are at high risk of developing severe COVID-19. Lockdown was a chosen strategy to deal with the spread of infectious diseases; nonetheless, it influenced people's eating and smoking behaviors. The main objective of this study is to determine the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on smoking (waterpipe and cigarette) behavior and its associations with sociodemographic characteristics and body mass index. METHODS: The data were derived from a large-scale retrospective cross-sectional study using a validated online international survey from 38 countries (n=37207) conducted between 17 April and 25 June 2020. The Eastern Mediterranean Region (WHO-EMR countries) data related to 10 Arabic countries that participated in this survey have been selected for analysis in this study. A total of 12433 participants were included in the analysis of this study, reporting their smoking behavior and their BMI before and during the COVID-19 lockdown. Descriptive and regression analyses were conducted to examine the association between smoking practices and the participant's country of origin, sociodemographic characteristics, and BMI (kg/m2). RESULTS: Overall, the prevalence rate of smoking decreased significantly during the lockdown from 29.8% to 23.5% (p<0.05). The percentage of females who smoke was higher than males among the studied population. The highest smoking prevalence was found in Lebanon (33.2%), and the lowest was in Oman (7.9%). In Egypt, Kuwait, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia, the data showed a significant difference in the education level of smokers before and during the lockdown (p<0.05). Smokers in Lebanon had lower education levels than those in other countries, where the majority of smokers had a Bachelor's degree. The findings show that the BMI rates in Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, and Saudi Arabia significantly increased during the lockdown (p<0.05). The highest percentages of obesity among smokers before the lockdown were in Oman (33.3%), followed by Bahrain (28.4%) and Qatar (26.4%), whereas, during the lockdown, the percentage of obese smokers was highest in Bahrain (32.1%) followed by Qatar (31.3%) and Oman (25%). According to the logistic regression model, the odds ratio of smoking increased during the pandemic, whereas the odds ratio of TV watching decreased. This finding was statistically significant by age, gender, education level, country of residence, and work status. CONCLUSIONS: Although the overall rates of smoking among the studied countries decreased during the lockdown period, we cannot attribute this change in smoking behavior to the lockdown. Smoking cessation services need to anticipate that unexpected disruptions, such as pandemic lockdowns, may be associated with changes in daily tobacco consumption. Public health authorities should promote the adoption of healthy lifestyles to reduce the long-term negative effects of the lockdown.

Original languageEnglish
Article number98
JournalTobacco Induced Diseases
Issue numberNovember
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


  • Arab countries
  • COVID-19
  • body mass index
  • cigarette smoking
  • waterpipe smoking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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