Waterpipe Tobacco Smoking (WTS) Knowledge Hub (KH)

Newsletter January-November 2020

WTS-KH was launched in November 2017 at AUB. This Knowledge Hub (KH) is the first in the Middle East and the third of the six FCTC knowledge hubs that aim at promoting and strengthening the global efforts of WHO and FCTC to curb the epidemic of tobacco use.

Despite disruptions due to the  Covid19 pandemic and the tragic Beirut Blas on August 4, 2020, the Hub is able to report on work progress set out in the  work plan as well as additional activities in response to the Covid-19 pandemic

  1. COVID 19 Online Awareness Brochure

The WTS KH generated online brochures to be disseminated on its social media platforms.

The brochures presented scientific information answering important questions related to waterpipe tobacco smoking and COVD19 during the quarantine.

Please read the online brochures in Arabic and in English on the link below


  1. COVID 19 online report with WHO EMRO

The WTS KH generated a report in collaboration with the World Health Organization Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean (EMRO) under the title: “Questions and answers on tobacco use, including waterpipe use and COVID19 in the Eastern Mediterranean Region”.

Please read the report on the link below

  • COVID-19 impact on smokers and waterpipe users


The WTS KH team generated a brief summary about smokers risks of contracting  COVID 19 as compared to non-smokers.


Please read the brief on the link below


  1. World Tobacco Day 2020 (WNTD2020)

AUB Holds the WHO World No Tobacco Day 2020 Award Ceremony

On Tuesday, July 7, 2020, the American University of Beirut (AUB) held the a
ceremony on the occasion of  the World Health Organization (WHO) World No Tobacco Day 2020 Award under
the slogan ‘Protecting youth from industry manipulation and preventing them from tobacco and
nicotine use’. The prestigious  WNTD award  for the Eastern
Mediterranean Region (EMRO), was granted to Dr. Ghazi Zaatari, Interim Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at AUB. The ceremony was attended by WHO representative in Lebanon, Dr. Iman Shankiti, AUB
president, Dr. Fadlo R. Khuri, the Coordinator of the AUB-Tobacco Control Research Group,
Dr. Rima Nakkash, WHO members, dignitaries, AUB leadership, family, and friends. Safe
physical distancing measures were maintained throughout the event. The ceremony was also
broadcasted live on WebEx. Several WHO regional and international members joined the
ceremony and gave live testimonies reflecting on Dr. Zaatari’s mentoring skills, achievements,
and role as an instrumental member of the organization.
In his speech, President Khuri said, “Dr. Zaatari is a distinguished and determined scholar and an
advocate for a tobacco-free tomorrow like few others. We are grateful for his outstanding
contributions, both past and current, related to tobacco control, tobacco product regulation, and
the health effects of traditional and novel tobacco products. All this despite the difficult
circumstances that the university, the country, and the world have been going through in 2020.”
He added, “AUB is doing everything possible to support our committed scholars, as well as
physicians, so that their contributions continue, and their visions for a better world and a brighter
future become a reality, and so that they can continue to mentor the next generation of stellar students.”

Dr. Shankiti welcomed the audience and announced that Dr. Zaatari has received the award in
recognition for his efforts in taking action against smoking. She indicated that the WNTD
Award recognizes individuals or institutions in each of the six WHO Regions based on their
outstanding contribution to the advancement of the policies and measures contained in the WHO
Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and its guidelines, particularly in relation to the
theme of World No Tobacco Day. In her address, Dr. Shankiti noted that the WHO will always
support the efforts of the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health, the American University of Beirut,
and all institutions and partners in the fight against smoking, to expand the implementation of all
the provisions of the WHO agreement in Lebanon. Dr. Shankiti congratulated Dr. Zaatari, AUB,
and Lebanon on an award well deserved at the end of her address.
A renowned pathologist for his distinguished efforts and investigative work on tobacco control,
tobacco product regulation, Dr. Zaatari has participated in several civil society activities and
served as an expert and speaker on tobacco control and tobacco product regulations at numerous
regional and international meetings and congresses.

Dr. Zaatari’s journey with the WHO started in 2004 when he joined the Geneva-based WHO
Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI) and its Study Group on Tobacco Product Regulation (TobReg). In
2008, Dr. Zaatari was appointed by WHO Director General as Chair of TobReg, a position he
continues to hold until the present day. The work that he is overseeing at TobReg has culminated
in publishing several WHO Technical Reports on Tobacco Product Regulation as well several
advisories. After TobReg, in 2005, Dr. Zaatari served on the Executive Committee of the WHO
Tobacco Laboratory Network (TobLabNet) and as of 2008, he attends the Conference of the
Parties (COP) to the WHO FCTC, held every two years. In 2016 and under his joint initiative
with Dr. Vera De Costa E. Silva, the Head of the Convention Secretariat of FCTC, AUB,
represented by President Fadlo Khuri, signed a memorandum of understanding to have AUB
designated as a global Knowledge Hub (KH) for Waterpipe Tobacco Smoking. At present, Dr.
Zaatari serves as its director.

In her turn, Dr. Rima Nakkash said, “Dr. Zaatari made his mark in the field of tobacco control
contributing to moving knowledge forward on many fronts due to his involvement at global,
regional, and national level and leading multiple tobacco control efforts.”
In his final speech, Dr. Zaatari thanked the curators for this ceremony and highlighted the efforts
of the American University of Beirut and its effective role in tobacco control. He said, ” I leave
you with this pondering question: the pandemic of the coronavirus has caught the attention of all
world leaders turned our world upside down and has claimed the lives of more than half a
million people. Yet, there is a pandemic of bigger magnitude, that of tobacco, which is
claiming the lives of 8 million people a year including an estimated 5000 Lebanese and one
billion by the end of the century but sadly many leaders and decision-makers remain watchful
bystanders lacking the resolve to turn around this disastrous tide.”

Please check all the pictures of the ceremony on this link:


World No Tobacco Day Virtual competition for the “Youth Anti-Smoking” awareness campaign

In the wake of the ongoing pandemic, AMALOUNA felt the need to continue with its awareness campaign, virtually, and to reach out to the youth in our community. Accordingly, this virtual competition was carried out in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education and Health and the AUB Wellness Center. It was also supported by the National Council for Scientific Research (CNRS)-Lebanon. Students from Public and private high schools were invited to design either a poster, video, or pictorial message about smoking (cigarettes, nargileh, e-cigarettes…).The artworks that should promote an anti-smoking environment or show the adverse effects of smoking were scored by a committee and we are sharing the 1st and 2nd winners for each category.

AMALOUNA website:

AMALOUNA Facebook Page:

Check the winner videos on our Facebook page:


WNTD 2020 Campaign

On the World No Tobacco Day 2020, the Chair of  WHO’s  Study Group on Tobacco Product Regulation (TobReg) , Dr. Ghazi -Zaatari, sent  a reminder message to the community about the harmful health effects of smoking and tobacco use, including that of  waterpipe smoking.  This is in keeping with the mission of the Waterpipe Tobacco Smoking Knowledge Hub – KH at the American University of Beirut (AUB).  To watch the message, please view on this link:


The WTS KH WNTD2020 on social media

The WTS KH for WNTD20202 in collaboration with social media influencers (Intragram) published good content videos on the dangers of smoking in general and waterpipe smoking in particular on their social media to spread awareness.

Message by actress @saraabikanaanofficial

Message by musician


  1. WTS-KH working on Law Enforcement & Advocacy with Members of the Parliament

The WTS-KH team has been  in contact with the Chair of the Lebanese Parliament Health Committee, Dr. Assem Araji, at the Lebanese Parliament to move forward with possible action plans to strengthen Law 174 on tobacco control in Lebanon; however,  the COVID- 19 pandemic slowed the progress and shifted the priorities for the parliamentarians.

It is still the plan of the WTS – KH to hold  a workshop &/or round table discussion for key stakeholders in the country regarding the reinforcement of Lebanon’s Law 174 and its application to waterpipe smoking.  It is also active in drawing the strategy of the future work of the newly founded Coalition for Tobacco Control Advocacy in the country.


  1. Webinars

In its efforts to highlight the knowledge on waterpipe smoking and discuss contemporary issues related to waterpipe use, the KH-WTS organized this year a series of webinars:

Webinar #1 on April 23 2020

Topic: Smoking and Smoking Cessation during the COVID19 Pandemic: Facts and Recommendations’ by  Maya Romani, MD, Assistant Professor of Clinical Family Medicine Director of the AUB Health and Wellness Center Associate Director of Family Medicine Residency Program Specialist in tobacco treatment and corporate wellness at the American University of Beirut (AUB)

For the full webinar recording, please visit the following link


Webinar #2 on May 7, 2020

Topic: Epidemiology of people in Lebanon compared to Jordan: Smoking Habits, Coffee, Occupational Exposure, and the Effect of Waterpipe Tobacco Smoking on bladder cancer and other cancers’ by  Elio George Jara , MD, Postdoctoral Research Fellow Hematology – Oncology Division Department of Internal Medicine, American University of Beirut.

For the full webinar recording, please visit the following link

The Hub is planning for two upcoming webinars. Detailed will be shared soon,

Webinar #3 – In progress

Topic: Economics of Waterpipe Tobacco Smoking in the United States and other international implications by Scott E. Sherman, MD, MPH-Chief, Section on Tobacco, Alcohol and Drug Use, Department of Population Health-Professor of Population Health, Medicine and Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine-Professor, College of Global Public Health, New York University Staff Physician, VA New York Harbor Healthcare System


Webinar #4 – In progress

Topic: Epigenetic markers of cigarette and waterpipe smoking: are they similar? By Akram GHANTOUS, PhD- Scientist, Epigenetics Group International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) The World Health Organization (WHO)


Please visit this page to view all the webinar presentations


  • WTS-KH working on School Awareness Sessions

The WTS-KH started discussions with local active NGOs on educational awareness presentations to youth in schools in Lebanon about the harms of WTS.. The WTS-KH is in the process of preparing a well-equipped user friendly and well-targeted educational material to be used for this purpose.


  • WTS-KH website database is updated

The WTS-KH library database has a searchable electronic index of published, reliable resources. It has access to a wealth of useful research materials from academic journals, newspapers and is updated: The WTS online database can be found on the library page and searchable by subject of interest, Pub Year, Descriptors and Author.

-Please check the link below for more details:


  1. Participation in International Congresses

Dr. Zaatari has participated in the following meetings that deal with contemporary issues related to emerging tobacco products and their regulations and what lessons have learned from conventional tobacco products. Because of the pandemic, all these meetings were virtual:

  1. The 10th Meeting od the Study Group on Tobacco Product Regulation (TobReg) on September 28- October 2, 2020; the meeting focused on electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and heated tobacco products and the challenge they pose in regulating them.
  2. The 4th Meeting of the Global Tobacco Regulators Forum on Nov 5-6, 2020.
  3. The 2nd Eastern Mediterranean Regional Tobacco Control Leadership Program 2020 on November 8-19, 2020. Dr. Zaatari will be moderating a session on “Challenges in Implementing Smoke-Free Environments in the Eastern Mediterranean Region”, and making a presentation on “New Tobacco and Smoking-Related Products: What We Know About Their Prevalence, Use and Regulation”.
  • Website & Social Media

To learn more about the mission WTS-KH and its activities, visit the following sites: