By Adaku Efuribe
I wish to draw attention to a public health issue that has become popular in the major cities of Nigeria which is shisha smoking.
It is worthy of note that using shisha also poses the same risks as cigarette smoking.
I have decided to write this article to create some form of awareness about shisha.
Few days ago, I watched a youtube interview which featured a popular Nigerian artist and throughout the interview the artist engaged in a shisha smoking session which was quite shocking to me.
Following the recent issues emanating with codeine and tramadol abuse among youths in Nigeria, the federal ministry of health has to up their game in educating the general public on the harmful effects of social substances that are dangerous to health.
There are mixed messages regarding shisha coming from uninformed people that do not understand the ingredients that make up shisha.
The other day I read a comment on social media made by a young Nigerian lady; advising people that there is nothing wrong with shisha and using it is a way of taking nutritional supplements. The lady went on to say shisha is mixed with vitamins and minerals and those who engage in smoking it are getting their daily vitamins and minerals.
Her comment had hundreds of likes from people who are as uninformed as her.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) fact sheet on waterpipe tobacco smoking states that:
Waterpipe smoke is toxic. Laboratory analyses of waterpipe smoke reveal measurable levels of carcinogens (including tobacco- specific nitrosamines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons [PAH], volatile aldehydes like formaldehyde, and benzene), and toxicants such as nitric oxide and heavy metals. Additionally, the burning charcoal generates high levels of carbon monoxide.
Systematic reviews of existing research point to significant associations between waterpipe smoking and lung cancer, periodontal disease and low birth weight . More recent data suggest probable associations with oral, oesophageal, gastric and urinary bladder cancer, as well as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cardiovascular disease, stroke, chronic rhinitis, male infertility, gastro-oesophageal reflux and impaired mental health.
Shisha smoking is becoming popular among artists and some celebrities in Nigeria. This is a worrisome trend as such people could easily influence their fans and followers into smoking it as well.
As a clinician, I don’t see anything classy in engaging in risky behaviors that could endanger one’s health and probably shorten life span.
I care about the health of Nigerians and any little information as regards to self care and healthy living would help especially in this day and age where our healthcare sector is a reflection of system failure in all quarters.
A lot of people believe that smoking shisha is safer than smoking cigarettes but this is not true unfortunately.
The key facts about shisha show that it is even more risky and harmful to health than cigarette smoking.
The British Heart foundation advises that shisha smoking – “also called hookah, narghile, waterpipe, or hubble bubble smoking – is a way of smoking tobacco, sometimes mixed with fruit or molasses sugar, through a bowl and hose or tube”.
Please see below key facts about shisha from a publication by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) to learn more:
What is in a shisha pipe?
Shisha pipes use tobacco sweetened with fruit or molasses sugar, which makes the smoke more aromatic than cigarette smoke. Popular flavourings include apple, plum, coconut, mango, mint, strawberry and cola. Wood, coal, or charcoal is burned in the shisha pipe to heat the tobacco and create the smoke because the fruit syrup or sugar makes the tobacco damp.
When you smoke shisha, you and anyone sitting near you are breathing in smoke which releases toxins including carbon monoxide and heavy metals –reducing your body’s ability to carry oxygen around in your blood.
How harmful is shisha smoking?
Traditionally shisha tobacco contains cigarette, tobacco so like cigarettes it contains nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide and heavy metals, such as arsenic and lead. As a result, shisha smokers are at risk of the same kinds of diseases as cigarette smokers, such as heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease and problems during pregnancy.
Is herbal shisha safer?
No it isn’t. Shisha, herbal or otherwise, usually contains tobacco. Fruit or herbal flavours do not mean the product is healthy. Even if you use tobacco-free shisha, you’re still at risk from the carbon monoxide and any toxins in the coal or charcoal used to burn the shisha.
Now that you know the key facts about shisha, I expect you to make an informed decision whether to use shisha or not considering the risks and associated diseases.
Healthy living is the greatest gift you can give yourself, why not choose health!