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Home / Health & Science

Experts debunk shisha myths

HEALTH & SCIENCEBy ALLY JAMAH | Tue,Mar 03 2015 00:00:00 EAT
By ALLY JAMAH | Tue,Mar 03 2015 00:00:00 EAT

The alarming increase in shisha smoking in the country is being linked to popular myths, with many Kenyans believing it is less harmful than cigarettes or more "trendy" and "cool".

The Ministry of Health, through the Tobacco Control Board (TCB), has revealed that contrary to the widespread beliefs, shisha does not contain less tobacco than cigarettes and is in fact more dangerous.

"Some Kenyans imagine that since tobacco is passed through water in shisha pipes, toxins are filtered out making the smoke healthier. But this is not the case," said Public Health Director and TCB Secretary Kepha Ombacho.

"Taking a single puff (of shisha) equals to smoking a whole cigarette. In addition, an average one-hour session of shisha smoking amounts to smoking between 100 and 200 cigarettes," he added.

Dr Ombacho said many Kenyans had been led to wrongly believe that fruity flavours of shisha make it more healthy than cigarettes, with some shisha brands being sold as "herbal" to fool unsuspecting people about their non-existent health benefits.

"It is such myths that are leading many unsuspecting Kenyans to take up shisha smoking as a recreational activity despite the huge health dangers they are putting themselves in. Others imagine that smoking shisha is not as addictive as smoking cigarettes while some think it is healthier than smoking cigarettes," he said.

Research published in 2013 by the University of California in the US found that shisha smoking was not a safe alternative to cigarette smoking.

By measuring the levels of toxins in the blood, breath and urine after smoking shisha, scientists found that those who smoked it exposed themselves to high levels of dangerous substances like carbon monoxide, tar and nicotine.

As a result, the board has asked county governments to crack down on shisha joints. Ombacho said the sale of flavoured tobacco contravenes the Tobacco Control Act.

Shisha bars

"The law provides that no tobacco product shall be promoted by any means which may be misleading or deceptive," he said.

Institute of Legislative Affairs Chief Executive Officer Vincent Kimosop called for the quick adoption of the tobacco regulations to give the Tobacco Control Board robust mandate to deal with tobacco use in the country.

He cautioned that illegal shisha bars were on the rise in Kenya, especially in Nairobi, Coast and North Eastern regions. Shisha is largely imported from Dubai or Egypt.

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