Flavoured tobacco in shisha is root cause of increasing use, expert in Dubai says

Shisha pipes said to be 72 times more toxic than cigarettes and they give off substantially higher levels of harmful substances such as arsenic, cobalt, lead, nickel and chromium.

The flavouring of shisha tobacco should be stopped so that young people will not be attracted to it. Marwan Naamani / AFP
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DUBAI // Stopping the use of flavoured tobacco will help halt the growing trend of young people turning to shisha water pipes to smoke, experts have said.
Marketing campaigns are helping fuel the misconception that smoking tobacco through water pipes is a healthier alternative to cigarettes. Less odour also makes the pipes more appealing to young people, as well as the social interaction from communal smoking.
However, the facts are every different. Shisha pipes are said to be 72 times more toxic than cigarettes and they give off substantially higher levels of harmful substances such as arsenic, cobalt, lead, nickel and chromium.
Speaking at Arab Health Congress in Dubai, Dr Feras Hawari, chief of pulmonary and critical care at the King Hussein Cancer Centre, Jordan, said attitudes towards shisha pipes had to change.
"The flavoured tobacco is making it more appealing for everyone to try," he said.
"There is often a misconception that passing tobacco through water makes it less harmful.
"We have seen 38 per cent of British university students try shisha pipes, 40 per cent of French students and about 20 per cent of American college students try it - these are very high numbers.
"This tells you that this problem is spreading across the world."
In the UAE, 25 per cent of 14- to 25-year-old males are now tobacco smokers, with more girls smoking shisha pipes than cigarettes.
Average puffs while smoking one cigarette amount to eight to 12, but smokers puff between 50 and 200 times when sitting with a shisha pipe.
Some people in the Middle East are smoking up to five sessions of shisha a day, Dr Hawari said.
"A study we did of six graders at a school in Jordan showed 13 per cent smoked water pipes with their parents," he added. "We are not talking about uneducated people here."
nwebster@thenational.ae