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Shisha culture

February 12, 2011

THIS is apropos of the letter ‘Need to discourage Shisha culture’ (Feb 5).

Habiba Younis has highlighted an important public health issue. According to a research on the university students of Karachi, 43 per cent of males and 12 per cent of females are already hooked on to Shisha. In another recent survey we have highlighted that shisha use is a gateway to other addictive substances like cannabis, heroin and other formsof tobacco.

Scientific studies done to see the adverse health consequences of shisha smoking point to dangers that are much more than those associated with cigarette smoking.

Shisha use has particularly serious health consequences on two vital organs of the body, namely, lungs and heart. Lung cancer, cancers of the food pipe, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, low birth weight, precipitation of asthma attacks and pneumonia are some of the health hazards associated with Shisha smoking. Additional dangers associated with Shisha use are infectious diseases like TB and hepatitis, resulting from pipe-sharing. Shisha, besides tobacco, contains hundreds of potentially dangerous heavy metals like arsenic, cobalt, chromium and lead. Under normal Shisha use, the smoke produced from a single pipe use contains approximately the amount of nicotine and tar equivalent to 100 cigarettes.

There is a common perception that toxins in Shisha fumes are filtered out when it passes through the water. Many restaurant owners claim that their Shisha only contains flavours. As a professor of respiratory medicine I would like to say to the people using Shisha that God has not created lungs for flavours. If someone likes a flavour like coffee, he or she should drink coffee rather than inhaling this flavour mixed with various other toxins into the lungs.

There is an urgent need to educate the public against the dangers of the Shisha use. Our religious scholars as well as NGOs should come forward and educate the public against the Shisha epidemic which is rapidly spreading among the youths of Pakistan. Special seminars should be held in schools and colleges warning the children against the dangers of Shisha use. The government must also implement existing laws which prohibit restaurant or hotel owners serving Shisha to its customers. Parents have the responsibility to ensure that their children do not use Shisha when they go out for eating with their friends and family.