The devastating health, social, economic and environmental effects of tobacco consumption—in whatever form and exposure to tobacco use remain a burden to the nation’s productivity and development. In this piece, GLORIA CHINYERE OKWU examines the dreaded impacts of tobacco use and exposure, giving cognisance to the emerging but growing use of ‘Shisha’ in Nigeria.
Despite tobacco control policies, which aim to nip tobacco consumption and its attendant consequences in the bud, tobacco industries have continued to emerge with new strategies to recruit “new” smokers. The latest and most patent tool in their offing is the flavour appeal, which has sashayed almost unnoticed into the Nigerian market through the shisha cafes and bars.
Shisha also known Hookah, Argileh or Goza originated centuries ago in ancient Persia and India. It is prepared in a glass bottomed water pipe in which flavoured tobacco is covered with foil and roasted with charcoal. The smoke, which passes through the water compartment, is inhaled deeply and slowly making it enjoyable and unrushed.
Some enthusiasts claim it is “the sweetest tobacco”. Today, Shisha cafes are springing up in many parts of the world. Other than the traditional water pipe for smoking shisha, new forms of electronic Shisha smoking including steam smokes and hookah pens have been introduced.
Shisha has tendency to cause a lot of harm compared to cigarettes for a high number of females and children indulgence. They prefer it because it leaves no marks like cigarettes, tastes nice, and a social link. It does not attract the social stigma associated with cigarette. These factors could induce prolonged use. This among other challenges informed the decision of the UAE government to place a ban on smoking of Shisha in parks and public beaches. This gesture can be replicated in Nigeria to stem the tide.
Shisha is tobacco laced with an array of flavours, with childlike appeal, which is perceived even before it is smoked. When lit it gives off a fruity scent that would easily lure a child to smoke. These flavours range from Candy, bubble gum, chocolate, strawberry, apple, cappuccino, watermelon grape and over 6,000 others which obscure the strong smell of tobacco making it possible for children to indulge right under the nose of an adult without being caught.
According to Dr Tom Frieden of the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, “flavoured tobacco products are enticing a new generation of America’s youths into nicotine addiction condemning many of them to tobacco –related diseases and early death”.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates the volume of smoke inhaled in an hour-long shisha session to smoking between 100-200 cigarettes. That is, an average smoker will inhale half a litre of smoke per cigarette while a shisha smoker can inhale anything just under the sixth of a litre to a litre of smoke per inhale.
In another study supported by WHO, it was revealed that a shisha session could last for about 45 minutes and consists of 50 to 200 inhalations, ranging from 0.15 to 0.5 litres of smoke. Thus, an hour-long session would inhale 1.7 times the nicotine of a cigarette.
The deliberate deep breaths before exhaling suggest that a lot of smoke is being inhaled.
Among the health impacts of Shisha are infections like hepatitis, transmitted through sharing of Shisha pipes; highly addictive nicotine and toxic chemicals; potential intoxication by harmful substances; high risk of cancers, infertility, and lung diseases.
In order to mitigate impacts of Shisha use, massive sensitization, stringent taxes and levies, immediate placement of ban for under aged children, adequate control in public places, and effective implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 must be considered and prioritised at all levels.