Smokeless Tobacco (Shammah) in Saudi Arabia: A Review of its Pattern of Use, Prevalence, and Potential Role in Oral Cancer


Background: Shammah is a traditional form of chewing tobacco [smokeless tobacco, (ST)] that is commonly used in the Middle East especially in Saudi Arabia (KSA), Yemen and Sudan. The Substance Abuse Research Centre (SARC) at Jazan University noted that no adequate research and information on the prevalence of shammah use in the province of Jazan, and KSA as well, has been provided in the scientific literature. Materials and
Methods: An intensive systematic review of online databases was performed, including AMED (The Allied and Complementary Medicine Database), Biological Abstracts, Cochrane Collection Plus, Dentistry and Oral Sciences Source, E-Journals Database, EBSCO Discovery Service, MEDLINE, PEMSoft, PEP Archive, PsycARTICLES,scopus, Sciencedirect and Google Scholar.
Results: Shammah is a mixture of powdered tobacco, lime, ash, black pepper, oils and flavorings. ST in KSA is placed in the buccal or lower labial vestibule of the mouth. The user (ordipper) spits out insoluble debris. The importation of ST products is prohibited in KSA. Accessible information on legislative action to control the use of ST in KSA appeared in 1990. The actual percentage use may be higher, than reported since shammah is illegal in KSA and there may be some reluctance to admit to its use.
Conclusions: This review paper is an initial step in a funded research project by SARC to understand the pattern of use of shammah and provide adequate epidemiological data. One goal of this review is to generate further data forpublic health education.