There is a new trend among today’s youth and the corporate class – the practice of smoking shisha also known as water-pipe smoking. If you watch the way people smoke shisha, they take deliberate, deep breaths of the tobacco smoke from the water pipe, before exhaling so there is a lot of smoke being inhaled.
This practice has its origins from the Asia, Indian sub-continent and Eastern Mediterranean. Shisha smoking has been imported into the country by the Asian communities and is now being offered and highly sought after at the numerous hangouts in the country. Many shisha smokers are likely to be cigarette smokers but many non-cigarette smokers are also being initiated into the practice.
There’s a misconception that shisha is not as bad for you as cigarettes are, because the tobacco is flavoured and passes through water first. But the carcinogens and nicotine are still there. So a regular shisha smoker can expect to be at risk of similar health problems that cigarette smokers face. Under normal water-pipe use conditions, the smoke produced from a single water-pipe use contains approximately the same amount of nicotine-free, dry particulate matter (“tar”) as 20 cigarettes.
As with any other tobacco product, I expect regular shisha smokers will find it addictive, to the point that they may need it every day. And indeed, the bars and night clubs that offer shisha smoking have been able to retain their clientele who are now addicted to the habit.
According to research by the World Health Organisation, the volume of smoke inhaled in an hour-long shisha session is estimated to be the equivalent of smoking between 100 and 200 cigarettes. The findings show that on average, a smoker will inhale half a litre of smoke per cigarette, while a shisha smoker can take in anything from just under a sixth of a litre to a litre of smoke per inhale. The global tobacco epidemic may kill 10 million people annually in the next 20–30 years, with 70 per cent of these deaths occurring in developing countries.
Studies that have examined shisha smokers and the aerosol of shisha smoke have reported high concentrations of carbon monoxide, nicotine, “tar,” and heavy metals. These concentrations were as high or higher than those among cigarette smokers. Water-pipe smoke contains harmful constituents and there is preliminary evidence linking water pipe smoking to a variety of life threatening conditions, including pulmonary disease, coronary heart disease, and pregnancy related complications, malignancy, impaired pulmonary function, low birth weight, and others.
Additional dangers not encountered with cigarette smoking are infectious diseases resulting from pipe sharing and the frequent addition of alcohol or psychoactive drugs to the tobacco.
Health authorities should ensure that the implementation of anti-tobacco laws limit acquisition and use of shisha. We should develop counter-advertising about the health and economic hazards of this form of smoking, especially for women and younger children.