Shisha is a glass-bottomed water pipe in which flavoured tobacco is covered with foil and roasted with charcoal. The tobacco smoke then passes through the water chamber and is inhaled deeply and slowly.
Most shisha smokers are unaware of the health risks involved, many don’t even realise that there’s tobacco involved and so they don’t regard shisha as smoking.
Addressing the misconceptions about shisha smoking
Unlike cigarette smoking, which is always portrayed negatively in the media, the harmful effects of shisha smoking are not as well known. Cigarette boxes often carry mandatory health warnings but you don’t see similar warnings at shisha joints.
For a start, shisha is often smoked in a social gathering, in the intimate ambience of a comfortable cafe. It has none of the negativity associated with cigarette smoking.
Also, shisha boasts natural fruit flavours such as apple, lemon, orange and melon. So those who are not in the know tend to associate shisha with being fruity and healthy. Some may even see it as a safer alternative to cigarettes.
How harmful is it?
But shisha smoking is far from benign.
Shisha smoke is often laced with carcinogens or cancer causing substances. Regular smoking of shisha may lead to cancer of the lungs, mouth, stomach and oesophagus. This is on top of health conditions like impaired pulmonary function, heart disease and reduced fertility.
According to recent research by the World Health Organisation (WHO), it is estimated that a smoker inhales half a litre of smoke per cigarette, while a shisha smoke can take in anything from just under a sixth of a litre to as much as a litre of smoke per inhalation.
Meanwhile, experts at the London-based Department of Health and the Tobacco Control Collaborating Centre have found that one session of smoking shisha resulted in carbon monoxide levels spiking to at least four times more than the amount produced by one cigarette.
The perils of second-hand smoke
Even if you’re not smoking shisha, just sitting with your friends at the same table exposes you to dangerous second-hand smoke.
Breathing in this less-than-desirable smoke means that you face an increased risk of health conditions like:
• Rhinosinusitis, an inflammation of the nose or sinuses
• Coughing and sore throat
• Heart disease
So if you don’t smoke shisha, it may be better if you didn’t hang around a shisha lounge. And if you do smoke shisha, it is time to quit.