Childen at particular threat of second-hand smoke

Every year tobacco kills 600,000 non-smokers exposed to other people’s fumes including cigarettes and water pipes, according to the World Health Organisation - about a quarter are children.
An increase in the price of a packet of cigarettes will deter young people from buying them, health chiefs say. Christopher Pike / The National
An increase in the price of a packet of cigarettes will deter young people from buying them, health chiefs say. Christopher Pike / The National

ABU DHABI // Experts have urged parents not to expose children to potentially deadly shisha fumes.

Parents should not smoke water pipes when children are present – be that in cafes or at home, said Dr Harpreet Saini, head of family medicine at Healthpoint in Abu Dhabi.

Every year tobacco kills 600,000 non-smokers exposed to other people’s fumes, including cigarettes and water pipes, according to the World Health Organisation. About a quarter of these victims are children.

“The social nature of smoking shisha and its popularity are big factors in children’s increased exposure to second-hand smoke and their adoption of shisha-smoking first-hand,” said Dr Saini.

“Its flavours are also quite attractive and give the illusion of being less toxic. Thus, the dangers of smoking shisha in front of children is twofold: the immediate danger of exposure to the smoke; and the even more dangerous future risk of encouraging them to start smoking.”

Many smokers wrongfully believe shisha is not as harmful as other forms of tobacco, she said.

“Second-hand smoke is bad no matter its source. There is a common misconception that smoke from shisha is safer because it is ‘filtered’ by the water in the pipe.

“But even after it has passed through water, that smoke still contains high levels of toxic compounds, including carbon monoxide, heavy metals and chemicals that have been linked to lung, bladder and oral cancer, as well as clogged arteries and heart disease.”

Shuker Fares, a cardiothoracic specialist at Al Noor Hospital’s Airport Road branch, said inhaling second-hand shisha smoke could cause respiratory problems including asthma and bronchitis among children.

“The parent, be that the mother or the father or any other family member, should never smoke in front of a child whether that be in a cafe or in a home,” he said.

Family members should also avoid smoking around pregnant women.

In infants, second-hand smoke can cause sudden death and in pregnant women it causes low birth weight.

“Protecting the embryo is the most important thing,” said Dr Fares. “The baby is growing every second and his health is critical.” Smoking shisha also encourages children to later pick up the habit, he said.

“Smoking is hazardous no matter how little users may inhale, not only putting users at risk but also the people around them,” said Dr Jeffrey Chapman, the chief of the respiratory and critical care institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

“Children are especially susceptible to second-hand smoke damage, especially from being in a car or home of a smoking parent.”

It is never too late to quit, he said, and help is available.

“There are local smoking-cessation clinics and resources to help you kick the habit. Also, remember that when you quit smoking, you’re not only benefiting yourself but also your loved ones, family and friends, as second-hand smokers.”

Earlier this year strict new laws were implemented in Abu Dhabi restricting the operations of shisha cafes near residential buildings, mosques and schools and a strict ban on customers under 18.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health has been urged to set up an anti-smoking hotline where callers would be transferred to specialists for diagnosis and treatment. Dr Widad Al Maidoor, director of the tobacco control programme at the ministry, told The National’s Arabic sister paper, Al Ittihad, that a hotline would greatly benefit people trying to quit the habit.

jbell@thenational.ae

Published: May 30, 2014 04:00 AM

SHARE

Editor's Picks
NEWSLETTERS
Sign up to:

* Please select one