Muscat: Afzal, an illegal chewable tobacco brand commonly used by Omani youth, contains alarmingly high levels of disease-enhancing molecules, new research has shown.
Two studies recently published in the Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal revealed that Afzal contains highly toxic nicotine levels and elevated concentrations of nitrate and chloride.
Two carcinogens identified in Afzal were also found to exceed international regulatory limits. Absorption of these substances can lead to serious health problems for Afzal users, researchers stated.
“The results of these studies show that we must spread knowledge about the toxic substances found in Afzal and help educate the public that these kinds of products constitute a grave danger to their health,” affirmed Dr Elsadig Eltayeb, one of the lead researchers involved in this research and a faculty member of the College of Science at the Sultan Qaboos University.
Eltayeb stressed that while some people in Oman believe that products, such as Afzal are a healthier alternative to smoking, this is not correct.
Afzal’s high concentrations of nitrate and chloride can lead to the formation of carcinogens and contribute to the development of heart disease or oral, lung and gastric cancers.
The studies also found that Afzal contains dangerously high levels of nicotine. This makes the chewable tobacco very addictive and means that those who try to stop using it will likely experience withdrawal symptoms.
Both studies concluded that more needs to be done in Oman to restrict the usage of Afzal among the public.
“Despite the fact that it is illegal to sell this product in Oman, the prohibited sale has no real influence unless people are aware of its harmful effects,” stated Eltayeb.
“The better the health education among the community, the faster these kinds of problems will be solved or at least minimised in the existing unacceptable situation.”
The researcher also suggested that addiction rehabilitation programmes should be established in Oman to help Afzal users successfully quit the habit, and that tougher penalties should be imposed on those who are caught selling Afzal.
In addition, education programmes should be implemented among Omani students to spread awareness about the potentially fatal outcomes of Afzal use.