Shisha smoking a major health risk

Nada S. Mussallam
Filed on June 5, 2006

ABU DHABI Numerous cafes and restaurants serving shisha (hubble-bubble) have become a disturbing feature of most residential areas across the emirates and pose a menace due to noise and air pollution.

The increasing trend is also blamed for multiplying the parking woes of the already suffering residents.

What is really serious about the phenomenon is that most shisha smokers wrongfully take to the hubble-bubble thinking that it poses only 'light' health risks compared to the serious health related complications of cigarette smoking.

Medical experts have warned that shisha has a more perilous impact on health compared to cigarette smoking. They say most shisha smokers have a misconception based on a wrongful and unscientific notion that tobacco used in shisha is herbal and does not affect body organs.

Residents of buildings with coffee shops and snack counters that serve shisha expressed their resentment over the outlets for the multiple problems they cause them. They called upon the authorities concerned to adopt certain measures to control spread of shisha outlets in the country.

It is to be noted that in their efforts to combat smoking, the health ministers of the GCC states have proposed a hike in the fees of commercial licence issued for cafes and restaurants serving shisha in the member countries. Despite several steps taken by the country to control the spread of tobacco, the UAE is considered among the world's leading consumers of tobacco.

Medical experts have also cautioned that one of the hazards of smoking shisha is lung cancer.

"Most people misleadingly believe shisha does not contain tobacco and that when they smoke they inhale herbal products. It is the added flavours that make them feel they are smoking herbs, while they are actually taking in tobacco and are highly likely to become addicted to nicotine. Shisha smokers should realise that it is far more dangerous than cigarette smoking because the amount of nicotine in shisha can not be measured due to packing differences," a doctor in the government sector warned.

Moreover, while smoking hubble-bubble the aluminium foil, which is usually of poor quality, reacts with the burning charcoal and produces aluminium fumes that are carcinogenic or in other words causes cancer, he said.

He clarified that the amount of carbon dioxide inhaled through shisha is very high compared to cigarette smoking, adding that one shisha smoke is equal to seven or 10 cigarettes depending on the packed ingredients.

He stressed shisha smokers should also be aware of the fact that when smoke goes through water humidity in smoke increases and it then tends to stay for a longer time in the lungs. Some germs, mainly bacteria that cause tuberculosis, live in the shisha pipe.

"According to recent studies the pipe could act as a good medium for conveying bacteria causing infectious diseases like Hepatitis A that can be easily transmitted when shisha pipe is used by multiple smokers," apprised the medical expert.

Maria Antonia, a resident, said: "it is a bad influence for young kids as they too feel like smoking cigarettes and having shisha."

Imli Jungla, another resident, wondered whether something can be done to curb the trend, which she finds sickening. "I find the smell sickening, can't they stop the roadside hubble-bubble culture?" she asked.

Aseel Maad (name changed) said: "Serving shisha in the residential areas has become very annoying to most people in the emirates. I personally believe authorities concerned should intervene to regulate the spread of shisha outlets, especially in residential areas. Besides health risks of hubble-bubble, it distracts youth from becoming creative and utilising their leisure time for doing something useful."

Duriya Ahmed, a 54-year-old housewife, said: "I believe shisha cafes and restaurants distort the beautiful look of cities. They also allure young people to taste the much promoted type of smoking (shisha), which I fear might soon become a habit of elegant and educated young people. I believe authorities concerned should be alert to control prevalence of this harmful phenomenon."

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