Shisha is ‘much worse for smokers than cigarettes’
DUBAI // Shisha smokers have up to four times the amount of carbon monoxide in their lungs than cigarette smokers.
That is the finding of health checks that marked No Tobacco Day on Tuesday.
The Ministry of Health asked doctors from mobile clinics to host smoking cessation sessions on Tuesday and to test the lungs of visitors by using a simple blowing test.
Healthy lungs have a carbon monoxide value of between two and six parts per million (ppm) on the test device. Regular smokers clocked between six and 16 ppm, with some shisha smokers recording readings as high as 48 ppm.
Abdo Estephan, a 27-year-old Lebanese, has never smoked but lives with three people who do. He was stunned to discover his lungs had a carbon monoxide reading of 9ppm.
“I don’t smoke, so I was shocked,” he said. “One of my housemates smokes shisha, the two others are cigarette smokers. They always smoke around me, and at work.
“Sometimes I feel a pain in my chest, and I have told my doctor, who said it did not make sense, as I’m not a smoker.”
Many supermarkets in the UAE on Tuesday marked the global No Tobacco Day by enforcing a 24-hour ban on cigarette sales.
Dr Basim Haider, a health educator on smoking cessation at Al Qusais Medical Centre in Sharjah, said the readings from the test device were a good indicator of whether lungs were healthy.
“One or two ppm on the reading shows a non-smoker, whereas six ppm indicates an average smoker. Anything more than that and it will show heavy smoking and high levels of carbon monoxide in the lungs,” he said.
Once inhaled, carbon monoxide from cigarettes or shisha attaches to the haemoglobin in the red blood cells, reducing the amount of oxygen carried around the body, creating a wide range of health problems such as heart disease.
In the UAE, changes to cigarette packaging will expand by 20 per cent graphic photographs warning of the health impact of smoking by the end of the year.
Dr Wedad Al Maidoor, head of national tobacco control at the Ministry of Health, said although improvements had been made in the UAE since 2013, stronger enforcement of tobacco laws was needed.
“The taxation issue remains with the Ministry of Finance, with a 100 per cent customs tax, but we would like to see a health tax also,” she said.
Smoking cessation clinics are available at the ministry’s primary medical care centres in Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah, Umm Al Quwain, Fujairah and in Dubai.
Updated: May 31, 2016 04:00 AM