x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Shisha clampdown ‘will create a generation with no interest in tobacco’

Experts say the rules will mean less exposure to second-hand smoke and will create a generation not interested in tobacco.

ABU DHABI // The clampdown on shisha cafes is being welcomed by health experts.

They say the rules will help to create a generation of children who have no interest in tobacco.

Smoking shisha is far more dangerous than smoking cigarettes, they warn, and say the regulations will mean less exposure to second-hand smoke, as well as bringing social benefits.

“It will have a very good, positive effect,” said Dr Wedad Al Maidoor, head of the National Tobacco Control Committee at the Ministry of Health.

“By making shisha cafes further in the distance, this is the best practice for people’s health.

“You are removing the effects of second-hand smoke and you reduce the rate of those using shisha.

“You restrict the use. Then you restrict the complications and the health hazards that come with it. We will have a new generation not interested in tobacco.”

Tobacco kills about six million people a year, of which 600,000 are non-smokers inhaling second-hand smoke, according to the World Health Organisation.

Dr Maher Eter, consultant pulmonologist at Al Noor Hospital’s Khalifa branch, said the ban was important for public health.

“This will definitely result in fewer people smoking shisha, and fewer people being exposed to second-hand smoke,” the Syrian expatriate said.

“It is a very good thing. Smoking shisha is very dangerous to your health and can result in damage to your lungs, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, such as emphysema and bronchitis, not to mention the damage to your heart, such as a risk of heart attacks and angina, and lung cancer.

“Many studies show it is far, far more dangerous than smoking cigarettes. It is very harmful because of the large amount of tobacco and people can smoke it continuously for one or two hours.”

Dr Al Maidoor said the rules would also bring social benefits.

“People who use shisha cafes, they smoke anywhere from 45 minutes up to two hours,” she said. “This is a lot of time away from the family.”

Shisha smokers cling on to a false confidence that the waterpipe is a relatively harmless pastime and have not accepted just how dangerous it is to their health, she said.

“People, unfortunately, are unconvinced that tobacco use in shisha is as harmful as it is. They think it is less hazardous than smoking a cigarette when the opposite is the case.”

Research reveals that the inhaled smoke from a one-hour waterpipe session contains as much tar as up to 600 cigarettes, depending on the brand, and as much carbon monoxide as about 150 cigarettes.

The way shisha is used has other health hazards aside from heart, lung and respiratory problems, said Dr Al Maidoor.

“You are exposed to a high concentration of carbon monoxide,” she said, and the way shisha is often shared also poses a risk of infection and the spread of disease.

“The way it is inhaled through a mouthpiece is unhygienic. Cafe owners say they change it or clean it but it can lead to the transmission of infections such as tuberculosis,” she warned.