Why you should quit SHISHA - Sabi Tips


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Why you should quit SHISHA

When Musa, a student of a tertiary institution, began to cough and have chest pains for weeks, he didn’t link it to smoking ‘shisha’ also known as hookah or water pipe. He and his friends hanged out at a ‘shisha’ spot regularly to smoke. 

He waved off every  information that appears to link them because he was confident he only smokes flavoured tobacco diluted with water, and not cigarette.

However, he was later diagnosed as having tuberculosis a few weeks after one of his friends was diagnosed of  the same disease.

A hookah is a single or multi-stemmed instrument for smoking flavoured tobacco (shisha) or sometimes cannabis, whose vapour or smoke is passed through a water basin, often glass based before inhalation.

For some, smoking shisha  is a handy way to relax after a hard day’s  work or study, and to others it is a key part of their daily routine, recreational activities and social gatherings.

Many youths are increasingly smoking  hookah and it has become a prized possession in many homes in Nigeria.

Some people think that smoking shisha is a harmless practice, and that it does no harm to the health like cigarettes and other forms of tobacco products. Some also add Indian hemp and other substances to it before smoking.

Medical experts, however, warn that shisha is harmful to health and also addictive.

Shisha smoking is very prevalent in Nigeria and socially accepted, especially among the youth, according to Dr. Nnenna Ezeigwe, National Coordinator, Non-Communicable Diseases, Federal Ministry of Health.

She said: “Shisha bars are becoming very popular in urban centres and springing up at a very fast rate. It is also worrisome that shisha is readily available and accessible to users through the internet. The unfortunate thing is that most of those who do shisha are ignorant of the content. Some erroneously believe it is a safer version of tobacco.”

Dr. Ezeigwe said contrary to the erroneous belief by many people, shisha is actually more harmful than tobacco.

She said this is because the average shisha-smoking session lasts an hour and that research has shown that within such sessions, it is possible to inhale smoke equivalent to more than 100 cigarettes.

“Also, many people erroneously believe that shisha smoking is not addictive because the water used in the pipe can absorb nicotine,” she said. “However the quantity of nicotine absorbed by water is insignificant and so shisha users are still exposed to enough nicotine to cause an addiction. It is important to know that second hand smoke from shisha is also harmful to exposed persons,” she warned.

Dr. Ezeigwe said shisha is a tobacco product and contains nicotine, which is the addictive constituent of tobacco, as well as several other harmful components, many of which are carcinogens.

In addition to cancer, she said shisha, like other tobacco products, is a risk factor for other non-communicable diseases, notably cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and chronic respiratory disorders, including asthma. It is also associated with periodontal disease and low birth weight, male infertility, gastro-oesophageal reflux and impaired mental health. Also, those who share mouth piece for shisha are at risk of tuberculosis and hepatitis, Dr Ezeigwe added.

Dr. Uche Onwufor, Executive Director of Gynae Care Research and Cancer Foundation, said there is a growing misconception amongst the populace that shisha smoking is not as bad as cigarettes smoking, because the tobacco is flavoured and passes through water first.

“But the cancer-causing agents and nicotine are still there. People who smoke shisha regularly are at risk to similar health problems that cigarette smokers face, whether its respiratory, heart disease or cancer. Also, people who smoke shisha are at risk of spreading tuberculosis (TB), oral herpes, influenza and some other airborne diseases. As with other tobacco products, regular shisha smokers will find it addictive, to the point that they may need it every day,” he said.

Is shisha banned?

Dr Ezeigwe, said in line with the Standards of Nigeria (SON) regulation for standards on tobacco products, all flavoured tobacco products are prohibited. Therefore shisha being a flavoured tobacco product is banned.

“Besides, the National Tobacco Control (NTC) Act, prohibits the sale of tobacco products via the internet. Therefore all those dealing with shisha either in stores, bars, internet or any other way are contravening the law and liable to prosecution,” he added.

On what government is doing and plans in place to reduce the scourge, the national coordinator said the NTC Act provides for a multi-sectoral committee of relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to coordinate tobacco control efforts in Nigeria.

She said: “This committee, known as the National Tobacco Control Committee was inaugurated in 2016 and has been working to raise awareness on the harmful effects of tobacco and tobacco products; sensitize the public on the provisions of the NTC Act and penalty for contravention. The committee is also engaging with the law enforcement agencies to encourage them to enforce the law.”

She advised those who have already formed the habit of smoking shisha to quit. “I know for those who are addicted it may not be easy but the good news is that help is available. In due course we will launch a help line where those who want to quit can call in for assistance.

“I also advise every Nigerian to avoid exposure to second hand tobacco smoke because exposure at any level is hazardous. In this regard I encourage everyone to police our common environment for a healthier population,” she advised.

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