Few months ago, five female pupils of the Oreyo Senior Grammar School, Igbogbo, Ikorodu area of the State, was caught in a video expertly smoking “Shisha” while in school uniform. The trending video simply sends a message to the spine of Nigerians, parents, guardians and school authorities and the government of the looming shisha pandemic in the country, where the dream of most teenagers in the country is to have a feel of shisha smoke.
Soon after the video went viral on the internet, the state government, through the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Youth and Social Development, described the act as heart-wrenching and also sent the girls on rehabilitation.
“The appropriate ministry is already intervening. You see why the role of parents is so critical. We can’t leave everything to the government and school. This is heart wrenching,” he said.
Truth must be told, the lust for shisha is hardly a joke in modern Nigeria as young Nigerians, mostly teenagers, plummet into addicts.
For some young girls even as low as 13 years old, smoking shisha is always a thing to try after discussion with their peers and they don’t care going any length to have a feel of it.
Amid warnings from global health bodies like World Health Organisation (WHO), young smokers are not deterred. A single hookah is enough for a group of 10 to smoke tobacco to their satisfaction. Some smokers claim shisha is good to keep the body warm during the cold. But in all weathers, the smoking instrument is not far away from teenage-smokers in Nigeria.
A shisha is a water pipe used to smoke tobacco. It is also called a hookah, hubble-bubble and narghile. The word “hookah” refers to the pipe, not the content of the pipe. It was invented hundreds of years ago in the Middle East. Today, hookah smoking is also popular in the United States, Europe, Russia, and around the world.
According to WHO, the volume of smoke inhaled in an hour-long shisha session is estimated to be equivalent to smoking between 100 and 200 cigarettes.
Firstly, the top two most common reasons for smoking shisha LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered were: “no specific reason, shisha is trendy” “I want to have a feel of it” , implying shisha is gaining popularity among nightclub patrons and flavour. It appears that shisha smoking has become a contextual norm in nightclubs in Nigeria. The trend cuts across adolescents and the older population in restaurants and hotels and at social gatherings.
Findings show that to the surprise of many, shisha smokers are not limited to men as female teenagers including undergraduates also engage in it.
Recent findings in Abuja, Kaduna, Kano, Anambra, Benin, Ekiti, Sokoto, Benue, Borno, Plateau, Lagos, and Ogun states reveal a high incidence of addiction among the youth. The relative cheapness and accessibility to the shisha items make it easy for the youth to acquire them.
For instance, a small pack of fruit-flavoured tobacco sells at N500 or more depending on the point of purchase, while the cost of smoking shisha at a bar ranges from N1,000 to N20,000 depending on the location and associative drugs used to spice the stash.
When this reporter visited a lounge where he disguised as a customer at Equinox Abacha road, Nasarawa state, 15 kilometers to the city centre in Abuja, it was gathered during the investigation many teenage girls with their boyfriends were seen patronising the place and taking Shisha.
It was also observed that users tend to expose themselves to dangerous diseases. It’s a common trend in most nightclubs and shisha joints to see youth sharing shisha pots and pipes among five to even eight persons. The smoking equipment is rarely cleaned before being passed from one user to the other. That is very dangerous, users may contract deadly diseases in that manner.
Speaking on why she cannot resist smoking shisha, Blessing Johnson noted she cannot resist smoking shisha as it gives her joy and she loves smoking it.
When asked if she was aware of the medical implication of smoking shisha, she said she know someone, a friend who has never smoked in his life; he has never taken any alcohol, exercises well, drinks a lot of water, he doesn’t go clubbing, if they say someone knows how to take care of himself, it is this friend. But he was diagnosed and sadly he has lung cancer.
‘’If I should die today. I believe that it is God’s plan for my life. But I won’t die now by God’s grace,’’ she said.
Speaking to the Shisha don Samuel at Equinox Lounge, he said a mixture of shisha goes for N1,500.
He said the prices of shisha pots range from N10, 000 to N75, 000 depending on the source.
Samuel said the imported pots are more expensive, stressing that this is because they depict class and sophistication of the user.
A medical practitioner at Rehoboth Hospital, Dr. Sanni Abdullahi while speaking to LEADERSHIP Weekend decried that shisha smoking has emerged as a prevalent public health issue in Nigeria.
He said contrary to the general belief, uranium that is inhaled will most likely damage your kidneys rather than your lungs. Dr. Abdullahi said there is a need for an immediate response from policy providers towards shisha smoking intervention in Nigeria.
Dr. Abdullahi said shisha does damage the respiratory tract, creates respiratory irritation and accumulation of fluid in the lungs as well. He noted that people smoked shisha for much longer than they smoked a cigarette, adding that with one puff, shisha smokers inhaled the same amount of smoke as they got from a whole cigarette.
He said: ‘’Shisha smoking is gaining increasing acceptance and appeal all over the world; Shisha smoking is generally perceived as less harmful than cigarette smoking and it is more prevalent among older men and younger women this is not true.
‘’The lust for shisha is hardly a joke in modern Nigeria. The discussion about the glass-bottomed water pipe in which fruit-flavoured tobacco is coated with foil and heated with charcoal makes it more highly resistible.
‘’Teenagers who smoke hookah are being influenced by people who are supposed to guide them. It is now everywhere on campuses today. We even have hookah competitions, where people in various schools post on social media their pictures on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They even compare the thickness of the smoke. This is the reality of the menace in our society. We need to strategic move to end this scourge.’’
Unlike cigarette smoking, statistics show that there is no gender or age difference in the rate of shisha smoking.
However, findings show that shisha smoking is now rampant and addicted users have graduated from visiting nightclubs and shisha cafes to ownership of shisha paraphernalia in their homes.
A report published by the Pan African Medical Journal, entitled: Shisha smoking in selected nightclubs in Nigeria’’ shows that shisha smoking is prevalent in nightclubs and has peculiar demographic correlates different from cigarette smoking. Although men were more likely to be regular users, the early age at initiation into use in women is an important epidemiological finding, especially regarding their reproductive health.
The report noted that the ‘’high prevalence of shisha smoking in our sample is also a major public health issue, given our findings that none of the shisha smokers were ready to quit and also considering that the majority of the users were high-level professionals in their productive stage of life.
‘’Our findings call for an immediate public health response from policy providers towards shisha smoking intervention in Nigeria.
The report found that men were significantly more frequent Shisha smokers than women, despite the lack of significant gender differences in the overall prevalence of shisha use in the past three months.
It said there are indications of an alarmingly high rate of shisha use among both men and women in some Arab countries and frequent shisha smoking is found in nightclubs, where it is often consumed along with alcohol.
‘’Nevertheless, despite the frequent use of shisha among these nightclub patrons, there was a general lack of readiness to quit using it, irrespective of gender. This finding is similar to reports of studies carried out in some other parts of the world. It is possible that the general misconception that shisha is not hazardous could be responsible for this finding. Shisha smokers usually believe that it is less harmful than cigarettes because the smoke is filtered through water.
‘’This misconception may be reinforced by marketing tools and social pressures. Unlike cigarette packaging, which carries mandatory health warnings, shisha products are commonly sold with no such health warnings. Labels on shisha packs claim their product is “natural” or “free of chemicals” and powered by inviting varieties of flavours, suggesting there is a risk for continued use and exploration by non-users.
‘’This has huge public health implications and carries an additional risk for women with regard to their reproductive health and is particularly pertinent considering our finding that significantly more women compared with men reported “flavour” as their commonest reason for shisha use and also that a significantly higher proportion of women had a younger age of initiation into use than men,’’ the report added.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 17 percent of high school senior boys and 15 percent of high school senior girls have used a hookah.
The CDC notes that hookah smoking is slightly higher among college students, with about 22 percent to 40 percent having tried it. This might be because it’s typically a group event and done in special cafes, tea houses, or lounges.
A hookah is made up of a rubber hose, pipe, bowl, and smoke chamber. Tobacco is heated on coals or charcoal, and it may have flavors added to it, like apple, mint, licorice, or chocolate.
A common myth is that hookah smoking is safer than cigarette smoking. This isn’t true. Hookah smoking won’t get you high, but it does have other health risks and can be addictive.