Manchester City Council

The Council & democracy News - February issue

Myth-busting: the dangers of shisha

The dangers of smoking shisha – or a hookah, as it’s commonly known – have been laid bare in a new campaign aimed to raise awareness of the health implications of shisha.

Shisha is a water pipe through which a mixture of tobacco and flavourings is smoked. The tobacco is heated beneath charcoal and the smoke bubbles through water before being inhaled.

Contrary to popular belief, smoking shisha is not safer than smoking cigarettes, and studies show that one hour of smoking shisha can be as damaging to health as smoking 100 cigarettes.

Find out more about the harmful effects of shisha.

Council officers have visited a shisha café in Rusholme to personally deliver the health information postcards to cafes and their customers, warning of the health risks of smoking shisha.  

The filtration through the water doesn’t filter out the harmful tobacco smoke, although the exotic flavours mask the tobacco taste and make it easier to smoke shisha for longer periods at a time.

An average shisha session can last about one hour and the exposure to carcinogenic tobacco smoke is a danger to health; the risk is not only to the smoker, but those around them because of passive smoke.

Dr Murugesan Raja, clinical lead for respiratory medicine for Manchester Health and Care Commissioning, said: “The misconception that smoking shisha is not as harmful or addictive as smoking cigarettes is a real concern, because the number of young people smoking shisha is on the increase.

“We need to raise awareness by educating people of the dangers to their health and ensuring they are not duped by the flavour or the social attractiveness of this pastime. Evidence suggests that it can increase the risk of getting lung cancer, and that it can cause heart problems and other long-term lung conditions.”

Councillor Bev Craig, Executive Member of Adult Health and Wellbeing at Manchester City Council, said: “It is a worrying trend that with the increasing number of shisha cafes springing up in the city, more young people are being enticed into smoking shisha because they aren’t aware of the health risks associated with it. It would be inconceivable that someone would be able to smoke 100 cigarettes in an hour, but it is commonplace for young people to spend at least one hour smoking shisha, so we need to educate people to the potential risks to their health.”

Shisha cafes have to comply with the no-smoking legislation, and smoking shisha inside is illegal, even if it is tobacco-free. Shisha smoking can take place in an outside or open area, but anyone caught smoking inside would be subject to a £50 fine.

During the visit, officers identified a number of offences relating to smoking inside and not displaying adequate no-smoking signs inside premises, and five fixed-penalty notices were handed out.

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