Youth ditch smoking of traditional cigarettes for shisha

BY: Hadiza Nuhhu-Billa Quansah
Youth ditch smoking of traditional cigarettes for shisha
Youth ditch smoking of traditional cigarettes for shisha

Hookah smoking among the youth in the city seems to be gradually overtaking the smoking of ordinary cigarettes at an alarming rate.

It is a fact that cigarette smoking has significantly declined in the past decade, but the popularity of hookahs is increasing.

Presently, in most of the beaches, restaurants, pubs, night clubs and drinking bars, hookah is displayed freely with both young men and women busily smoking hookah, which is also known as shisha, narghile, water pipe or hubble. There is even a whole Shisha Lounge based in Osu.

At the just-ended Chalewote Festival which took place at Jamestown in Accra, majority of the youth were spotted by this reporter busily smoking shisha like ‘there was no tomorrow’.

Just like waiters/waitresses approach customers with drink and food menus, so it is for those responsible to man the shisha section to also come to you and find out if you would like to smoke shisha.

Once you agree, they give you the list that shows the various flavours you would like to smoke and attend to you until you are cool to go. One important observation this reporter made was that unlike ordinary cigarettes where the seller only supplied the client with the product, with hookah, the waiter/waitress attending to the client is seen lighting and smoking to heat the tobacco before passing it to the client.

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There is no discrimination when it comes to smoking the shisha, as men and women equally partake and enjoy its aromatic offering without bothering about the health hazards that come with it. For most of the youth, it is a class status just to show off.

Each round of shisha a person smokes can cost between GH¢15 and 50 cedis depending on the class of the pub or restaurant.

Indeed, shisha is a booming business. When you visit some of the big supermarkets, you would find them selling the hookah pots which come in the form of elegantly designed metal, plastic and glass pots with pipes attached to them. The hose to the shisha comes in single, double or as many as six all attached to one pot.

Interestingly, because the hookah pot is such that it can be carried around easily, sometimes you find some of these young men and women smoking from their car in turns without considering the infection they might be transferring to one another from the smoking pipe.

It is often common to find people smoking hookah from a fruit cup or liquor bottles. The most popular flavour is apple, although there are others such as strawberry, watermelon, lemon, grapefruit, coconut, pineapple, apricot, grape, rose, mint and even cappuccino.

The Mirror had a chit-chat with some the young men and woman at Osu and La to find out why they smoked shisha, and the reason they gave was to simply satisfy their cravings for tobacco. According to Nii Teiko, who is a university student, he said he first tried hookah to see what the hype was about. “Indeed, the tobacco in it smells and tastes sweeter than ordinary cigarettes,” he described.

What’s in hookah/shisha?

Shisha usually contains tobacco which is sometimes mixed with fruit or molasses sugar. Popular flavours include apple, strawberry, mint and cola. Wood, coal or charcoal is burned in the shisha pipe to heat the tobacco and create the smoke.

What are the risks?

Shisha often contains the same type of tobacco as you get in cigarettes. This means shisha smokers are at risk of developing the same health problems as cigarette smokers, such as cancer and heart disease.

Since shisha contains nicotine (the addictive ingredient in cigarettes), you can become addicted to smoking it.

One perception is that because the smoke passes through water, the vapour is less harmful. But health experts say the number of puffs taken in an hour is supposed to be about equal to 100 cigarettes, five packs or five full-sized cigars.

Besides, second-hand smoke from hookahs can also be a health risk for non-smokers and kids.

A World Health Organisation (WHO) study has suggested that a one-hour session of smoking shisha can be the same as smoking 100 or more cigarettes. Worldwide, about one billion people are familiar with hookah (Wolfram, Chehne, Oguogho Sinzinger, 2003) and it is estimated that the global prevalence of hookah smoking on a daily basis is about 100 million (Nakhostin-Roohi, 2016).

Another study found that the three most common places for teenagers to smoke a hookah is in their own home, a friend’s house or another family member’s home.

In a presentation made recently by Feikoab Parimah, Makafui Jonas Davour, Opoku Samuel Asante, Joseph Mfum Manukure, Nutifafa Eugene and Y. Dey from the Department of Psychology, University of Ghana at the just-ended Fourth Scientific Conference organised by the Ghana Psychological Association (GPA) in Accra, it was indicated that more students were getting hooked on poly-drugs such as hookah.

The research, which focused on poly-drug usage among students in selected senior high schools (SHSs) in Accra, confirmed that there was a significant association between whether or not one had ever been offered hookah and whether or not the person had ever used hookah.

Similarly, a significant association was found between whether or not one had ever taken other drugs and whether or not the person had ever used hookah. “The association between whether or not one has ever taken marijuana and whether or not the person has ever taken hookah is equally significant. Thus, those who have ever taken marijuana are about 10 times more likely to have taken hookah than those who have never,” the reported indicated.

Early this year, the Ghana Health Service (GHS) said it was making efforts to secure a ban on the smoking of shisha and electronic cigarettes by the middle of 2018. Unfortunately, we are in the eighth month and the ban has not been enforced.

The Principal Research Officer of the GHS, Mr Divine Darlington, said a research conducted by his outfit showed that most of the country’s youth had ditched the smoking of traditional tobacco cigarettes for e-cigarettes and shisha.

The research revealed that the rate of smoking shisha and e-cigarettes among young people had shot up to 5.3 per cent, higher than the traditional use of tobacco which stood at 2.8 per cent.