Shisha – safe or not?
By Saleha Suleman – Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Ever since its introduction into the market, Shisha has become a rapidly growing entertainment option, especially recently, for the younger generation. Shisha owes its popularity to the variety of flavors available, and the fact that it is reputably ‘safer’ than smoking. But is it?
Let us first define shisha. Shisha is commonly referred to as the ‘Hookah’, and is a water pipe used for vaporizing flavored tobacco, where the smoke or vapor is passed through a water basin before inhalation. According to an article on the Independent Editor’s Blogs, 15% of UK citizens aged 18-24, who are either regular shisha doers or have at least tried it once, believe that there are no health risks posed by shisha while another 44% believe that possible health risks are included, but less than those of smoking.
Contrary to popular belief, a typical hour-long session of shisha would be equal to smoking 80 – 100 cigarettes, or worse. This is due to the fact that not only does the shisha that is inhaled have high levels of tobacco, but also contains toxins present in the charcoal or wood used to burn the tobacco. And then, of course, there is tar, metal particles, Aerosols and carcinogens also present. And this is no different in ‘Herbal Shisha’.
“Okay, but it doesn’t matter, because it’s not addictive – it doesn’t have any nicotine.” Wrong again. In a regular 60-minute shisha session, smokers, or in this case shisha doers, are exposed to, according to an article on www.quitshisha.com, 100 to 200 times the volume of smoke inhaled from a single cigarette. And this includes about the same level, or higher, of nicotine present in the shisha than in a cigarette. Usually, the better quality Shisha tobacco’s have a higher level of nicotine present, which is what most people will go for.
There is also a very highly probable exposure to diseases, such as lung cancers and heart diseases and leukemia, as well as hepatitis, herpes and tuberculosis if mouthpieces are shared.
The Guardian quotes, “In March, the BBC published a news story claiming that GPs in Leicester “are seeing an increase in teenagers with health problems linked to shisha pipe smoking”. But Leicester PCT now says the story was erroneous; while it maintains the number of teenagers in the city smoking shisha is on the rise, it says GPs have not confirmed an increase in treating patients with health problems caused directly by shisha.”
Despite knowing all the risks, addicts hold on to the fact that not enough research has been done to prove this. Others know the facts but still enjoy it; it’s just ‘something that relaxes them’. So is all this talk about exposure to health risks through shisha just a waste of time?