Thursday, May 20, 2010

Banning ‘shisha’ smoking

Mr Abid Baloch is absolutely right in raising his concerns on the health hazards associated with ‘shisha’ use (May 18).

Research done in the UK last year showed that people who regularly smoke ‘shisha’ can suffer from dangerous levels of carbon monoxide (CO) similar to that of inhaling a car exhaust. ‘Shisha’ smoke also contains hundreds of potentially dangerous substances, including charcoal, nicotine, arsenic, cobalt, chromium and lead. In addition, water pipe smokers might absorb higher concentrations of these toxins because of higher concentrations in the smoke itself, or because they may smoke for several hours at a time and may inhale the moisturised, less irritating smoke more deeply. A typical hour-long ‘shisha’ session involves inhaling 100 to 200 times the volume of smoke inhaled when smoking a cigarette. A research conducted in Pakistan in 2008 had shown that over 50 per cent of Karachi youth belonging to various universities were habitually using ‘shisha’. The reasons for this rising trend are certain misconceptions that water pipe smoking is not hazardous to health, since the tobacco is filtered through water before inhalation; nicotine content is less than that of cigarettes and addition of fruit flavours make it healthier. Another factor adding to its popularity is its social acceptability as compared to cigarettes and its portrayal is a symbol of modern lifestyle. According to Prohibition of Smoking Ordinance 2002, tobacco sale is prohibited by law to anybody under the age of 18. Smoking is also prohibited at all public places, including hotels and restaurants. It is indeed sad that by allowing cigarette and ‘shisha’ smoking in these closed premises, the anti-smoking laws of the country are being flouted by almost all hotels and restaurants in the country. I have written several letters to the ministry of health and to the ministry of hotel and tourism in this regard but so far no action has been taken. Our health authorities must take notice of the current situation and put a complete ban on serving ‘shisha’ at any hotel or restaurant in the country. The electronic and print media must warn the public, particularly the youth, on the serious potential health hazards associated with ‘shisha’ smoking.

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