Introduction Accurate information about the prevalence and types of tobacco use is essential to deliver effective public health policy. We aimed to study the prevalence and modes of tobacco consumption in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), particularly focusing on the use of Midwakh (Arabic traditional pipe). Methods We studied 170,430 UAE nationals aged ≥18 years (44% males and 56% females) in the Weqaya population-based screening program in Abu Dhabi residents during the period April 2008–June 2010. Self-reported smoking status, type, quantity and duration of tobacco smoked were recorded. Descriptive statistics were used to describe the study findings; prevalence rates used the screened sample as the denominator. Result The prevalence of smoking overall was 24.3% in males and 0.8% in females and highest in males aged 20–39. Mean age (SD) of smokers was 32.8 (11.1) years, 32.7 (11.1) in males and 35.7 (12.1) in females. Cigarette smoking was the commonest form of tobacco use (77.4% of smokers), followed by Midwakh (15.0%), shisha (waterpipe) (6.8%), and cigar (0.66%). The mean durations of smoking for cigarettes, Midwakh, shisha and cigars were 11.4, 9.3, 7.6 and 11.0 years, respectively. Conclusions Smoking is most common among younger UAE national men. The use of Midwakh and the relatively young age of onset of Midwakh smokers is of particular concern as is the possibility of the habit spreading to other countries. Comprehensive tobacco control laws targeting the young and the use of Midwakh are needed.