Risking lives in Sheesha addiction
By: Zahra Amrish, Shaista Malik and Afifa Shareef
ISLAMABAD, July 12, 2010: “Though I am not a smoker but I am here just for chill”, said a young politician of Rawalpindi while inhaling Sheesha at a Sheesha cafe. He has been coming regularly here for three months to enjoy it. “It is not an addiction,” he added.
“It provides me relaxation but its excessive use does make me a bit dizzy”, said Nida, a 27-year-old girl. She added that she has recently started coming to this cafe. She was introduced to this by her friends when they came here trying to experience something new and exciting. Ali Shah, a 20-year-old young boy who runs a showroom with his father said, “Sheesha has become my life”.
“Students come here for fun”, said Salman Afzal, the owner of the Sheesha house in Islamabad. “I set up this Sheesha business because nowadays it is quite profitable”. He said that he has to inhale each time when he offers to customers. No youngster below 18 is allowed to taste it.
He further added that he is earning Rs.7000 a day. Different flavors of it are available in the market. Most of them are exported from United Arab Emirates (UAE). However, ‘mint’ is the most popular flavor among youngsters. Islamabad – the Capital of Pakistan has almost 10-12 such café houses where Sheesha is offered to customers.
When inquired from Dr. Wasim Khawaja, official spokesperson of Pakistan Institute of Media Sciences (PIMS) about Sheesha and its effects on health, he said, “It is a sweet poison and is very injurious to health. The chemicals used in Sheesha-making cause mouth and lung cancer and heart diseases.” “Parents should be strict and vigilant about the activities of their children. People are adopting it due to stress and hypertension. We are providing medical treatment at non-smoking clinics to addicts of Sheesha smokers,” he added. He also told that there is also a risk of infectious diseases from pipe sharing and the unhygienic manual preparation of flavored Sheesha.
In 2005 the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that water-pipe-smoking is now considered as a global public health threat because the number of its users is increasing day by day. Moreover, in 2007, a US based ‘Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco’ (SRNT) conducted a research on the characteristics of water-pipe users, and they concluded that “Most of them believe water-pipe use to be less addictive and harmful than cigarette smoking, believed they could quit its use at any time, but had no plans or desire to do so”.
The reason why it is getting popular in our culture is because it originated from Hukkah which had been in use since centuries in this part of the world especially in rural areas. Sheesha is its modern version and is available in different flavors too.
Sheesha users are mostly young and educated people who are interested in experiencing the multiple forms and flavors of tobacco. They are unaware of the potentially harmful and addictive properties of Sheesha. So efforts are needed to increase awareness of the hazards of this increasingly popular form of tobacco use.