3 July 2012

Uganda: Shisha Too Can Be Harmful

Geoffrey and his friends are making a livelihood from selling shisha, a flavoured tobacco smoke at Livara beach in Entebbe.

He has sold sisha for the last one year and although he acknowledges that it has negative effects, he is not ready to quit the business.

"Shisha does not smell as bad as cigars because its vapour is sweet and flavoured," he says.

Sisha is a fruit-flavoured tobacco often smoked through a water pipe, the hookah. Smoking shisha is traditionally seen as a cultural or social activity and it is often smoked within a circle of friends where each person inhales it through the same mouthpiece. Shisha pots, which according to Geoffrey, are only available at Garden city, are fitted with two outlets for the pipes.

Atop the pots are charcoal blocks wrapped in foil paper, which heat the water producing a sweet vapour which is inhaled through the fitted pipes. One pipe can be used by several people. Casablanca bar and restaurant along John Babiiha avenue, Kololo, is particularly known for the shisha sale.

Sisha is also sold in Four Turkeys restaurant and bar in Entebbe, some bars at Centenary park and at Arua park. Geoffrey's major clients are university students and young corporates who smoke it as a status symbol.

"Each smoking session that can last up to an hour, costs Shs 10,000 and a refill is valued at the same price," Geoffrey says.

However, research shows that shisha contains highly addictive nicotine and one hour of smoking is equivalent to inhaling up to 200 times the volume of smoke in one cigarette.

"The bubbling water creates an illusion that all toxins are being filtered and yet it does not and can lead to a serious nicotine addiction harmful to one's health," a research paper notes.

Sharing the same mouthpiece also exposes one to dangers of oral diseases like oral cancer and herpes. Shisha smokers also inhale dangerous levels of carbonmonoxide exposing one to heart attacks, stroke and hypertension.

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