Kenya last week became the third country in the East African region, after Tanzania and Rwanda, to impose a ban on shisha smoking in a span of less than two years.
The ban on shisha smoking is increasingly becoming a global issue as several other countries, such as Canada, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Singapore and Pakistan have also prohibited hookahs (shisha) in hotels, pubs, restaurants and cafes.
Announcing the ban, Kenya Health Secretary Cleopa Mailu said the importation, manufacture, sale or distribution of shisha has been strictly prohibited.
"No person shall allow, promote, facilitate or encourage or do anything to allow, promote, facilitate or encourage shisha in Kenya," according to the new regulations to control shisha smoking.
“Any person who contravenes any provisions of these rules (Control of Smoking Shisha Rules, 2017) may, where a penalty has not been expressly provided for under any provision of the Act, be liable to the penalty contemplated under Section 163 of the (Public Health) Act,” says the Special Kenya Gazette notice dated December 28 and signed by Dr Mailu.
Where no penalty is expressly provided for such offence, offenders are “liable to a fine not exceeding KSh50,000, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to both and, if the offence, contravention or default is of a continuing nature, to a further fine not exceeding KSh1, 000 for each day it continues.”
Shisha smoking has become popular among the youth, and women in East Africa and elsewhere around the world.
Shisha smoking also goes by the terms sheesha, hookah, narghile, qalyân, waterpipe, or hubble bubble smoking. It comes in several flavours including fruit, minty, rich and creamy.
The tobacco is usually mixed with fruit, herbs, or sugar from molasses.
Often, the tube is shared and several people smoke around a table.
World Health Organisation (WHO), in a recent advisory note to regulators, revealed that smoking shisha posed grave health risks.
Earlier this month, Rwanda's Health Ministry outlawed the importation, advertising and smoking of shisha within its territory over health concerns.
In a public notice effective December 15, 2017, the ministry warned of sanctions to those who will flout the ban on shisha popularly known as water-pipe tobacco smoking.
“…shisha tobacco smoking is damaging, addictive and dangerous on human lives. The smoke that emerges from a water-pipe contains numerous toxicants known to cause lung cancer, heart diseases, just to name a few,” reads the communication from the Minister for Health Dr Diane Gashumba.
Worse than cigarette
Recently, the WHO in an advisory note to regulators, revealed that smoking shisha posed grave health risks.
“Cigarette smokers typically take eight to 12 cigarettes with a 40 to 75 millimeter puffs and inhaled 0.5 to 0.6 litres of smoke unlike shisha smoking sessions which typically last 20 to 80 minutes, during which the smoker may take 50 to 200 puffs which range from about 0.15 to 1 litre each,” it said.
The report would further warn of dire consequences for passive smokers who frequent dens with others smoking shisha.
“Second-hand smoke from waterpipes is a mixture of tobacco smoke in addition to smoke from the fuel applied to burn the tobacco and therefore poses a serious risk for non-smokers," it added.
Drawn to it for being ‘cool’ Patrons flocking to shisha parlours to smoke and socialise in the new craze that has earned numerous brownie points say it is harmless and a flavoured relaxing fun. A common belief is that the risks of tobacco are reduced since it is purified as it passes through the water. On the contrary, WHO insists that even after it has been passed through water, the smoke produced contains high levels of toxic compounds, including carbon monoxide, heavy metals and cancer-causing chemicals.
In July last year, Tanzania became the first country in East Africa to slap a ban on the smoking of shishas over concerns of links with drug or alcohol abuse.
Shisha smoking had become increasingly popular with young people in Tanzania.
But there has been growing concern that smoking the fruit-scented tobacco through a bowl and tube could be used to cover up alcohol or drug abuse.
Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa warned that shisha smoking was killing future generations.
Doctors say there is a "misconception" that shishas are not as harmful as cigarettes and the British Heart Foundation says an hour-long shisha session can be the equivalent of smoking more than 100 cigarettes.
"Traditionally shisha tobacco contains cigarette tobacco, so like cigarettes it contains nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide and heavy metals, such as arsenic and lead," it says.
"As a result, shisha smokers are at risk of the same kinds of diseases as cigarette smokers, such as heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease and problems during pregnancy."