By Abigael Sum
Medical experts have warned Kenyans against smoking the now trendy shisha.
They said shisha is a drug, with harmful effects. Speaking at the National Authority for Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse ( Nacada) conference, the health experts said tests indicate there are addictive constituents in shisha, which include opiate, a powerful drug just like heroine and bhang.
“There is possibility that shisha is used as a gateway to other addictive substances such as cannabis and heroine,” said Dr James Gathumbi, a medical researcher and lecturer at the University of Nairobi.
Gathumbi noted drug traffickers are now using shisha to conceal narcotics. Shisha is tobacco mixed with molasses or honey. It comes in a variety of flavours including apple, grape, guava, lemon and mint.
One of the reasons it is gaining popularity is because of its aroma, unlike normal cigarette. In Greece, shisha is known as the ‘cocaine of the poor’. Gathumbi noted Shisha smoking is spreading fast among the youthful urban population.
“The last few years have seen rapid growth in the number of pubs, cafes and restaurants offering shisha. These outlets are increasingly attracting people from different backgrounds, most of whom are youth,” said Gathumbi.
He said the fact that little is known about the composition of shisha consumed locally, especially possibility of adulteration with prohibited substances, makes it dangerous.
“The exact ingredients of shisha locally sold are unknown due to poor labelling and lack of standardised manufacturing method,” explained Gathumbi.
He stated health hazards of smoking shisha are similar to those associated with cigarette smoking like lung and esophageal cancer, chronic bronchitis, low birth weight, asthma and pneumonia attacks, among others.
“Shisha is more harmful than cigarette. It has more nicotine and tar compared to cigarette. Smoking a session of shisha is like smoking 20 cigarettes at a go,” he said.
Gathumbi reiterated the need for people to be more sensitised on the possible contents of shisha and its consequences.