Friday, June 4, 2010

Shisha just as dangerous as smoking

By Rosanna Lee

Here’s something that I am sure most of are familiar, the ever quintessential night out at your favourite local mamak. What goes after is almost predictable, an order for the delicious roti banjir you can’t get enough of, a glass of icy cold teh o ais limau that comes with a tangy taste at every sip, and of course, the pièce de résistance, a stick of cigarette which many smokers admitted that a meal would not be complete without. Not a fan of smoking but want to socialize with the rest of your tobacco-dependent friends? That’s where shisha comes in and worry no more about feeling like a social outcast missing out on all the fun.

Shisha is a single or multi-stemmed (often glass-bottomed) water pipe for smoking. Originally from India, the hookah has gained immense popularity, especially in the Middle East. A hookah operates by water filtration and indirect heat. It can be used for smoking herbal fruits, or tobacco leading us to think that it is completely harmless when it is not.

According to Associate Professor Dr Nabilla Abdul Mohsein Al-Sadat of Universiti Malaya, 1.5 per cent of women in Malaysia currently smoke but this number could rise to 18 per cent by 2014 if there are no barriers placed on shisha smoking.

Last week, the United Arab Emirates tightened the noose on smoking in public with new regulations that ban smoking in hotels, cafes and restaurants. It has also imposed stricter limitations on the widely used nargileh (shisha), the traditional water pipe.

Dr Nabilla says her studies and those conducted overseas show evidence that people inhaled more tobacco through the shisha than by smoking cigarettes. "Some people tend to think that anything adopted from the Arab world is good. People think smoking shisha is harmless but, in fact, it is worse than cigarettes.

"Smoking shisha for hours is like smoking 400 cigarettes." Sharing of the water pipe also spreads contagious diseases. "When I went to the UAE, I observed that shisha smoking has become a cultural habit. It has become the norm and if you don't smoke, you are not part of their culture."

And of course, it's not only the women who are addicted to shisha. Teenagers and sometimes children as young as primary school students are also seen smoking shisha without a care in the world and their parents would not do anything about it, assuming that it is not as harmful as cigarettes as so far there are no reported deaths that are caused by constant exposure to shisha. After all, who would believe that these brightly packaged tobacco-molasses are potential death agents ?

So then, do you think shisha should be banned, as suggested by the health officials or perhaps there could be more effective measures that could be used in order to deal with this matter? Share your thoughts with us ;)

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