Just a few months ago, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) raised the alarm on the growing rate of Shisha consumers in the country.
The group advised the government to take a cue from other nations that have banned the importation and smoking of water-pipe tobacco otherwise known as shisha, due to its addictiveness and deadly effect on the health of user.
Recall also that weeks after the warning, a video also went viral on the internet, where a particular state government, through its Ministry of Education and Ministry of Youth and Social Development, described the act as heart-wrenching and immediately sent some students caught smoking what many describe as irresistible lethal killer on rehabilitation.
Unfortunately, as with many other lesser evils that sneaks into the country and grow strong enough to size it by the jugular, health authorities appear to be attacking it with kid gloves.
Although many users, perhaps out of ignorance, think it is less harmful, shisha smoking, according to health experts has many of the same health risks as cigarette smoking.
Interestingly, even the World Health Organisation (WHO) has added its voice to many other advocacy groups condemning the consumption of shisha, warning has equally warned that water-pipe smokers and second-hand smokers are exposed to the same health risks associated with cigarette smoking.
According to the UN agency, “Contrary to popular belief, the smoke that emerges from a water-pipe contains numerous toxicants known to cause diseases such as lung cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease.”
LEADERSHIP Sunday findings shows that the content of shisha, like cigarettes, includes nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide, arsenic, lead and other poisonous and cancer-causing chemicals
This is even as an intensive undercover research conducted by ERA/FoEN revealed that most Nigerian cities like Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kano to mention but a few have flourishing shisha spots patronised by the elite, celebrities and supposed role models who not only smoke the product, but also circulate pictures and videos of their shisha orgies on social media, feeling cool and hype.
Some transporters who spoke to LEADERSHIP Sunday from some joints, attested to the fact that shisha bars were increasing by the day in major cities while government turn blind eye.
One of the driver who spoke to our correspondent at the popular Jabi garage, on condition of anonymity lamented that shisha cafés were gaining in popularity around the big cities in the country and government is doing as if nothing is happening.
He said, “My concern is that despite the fact that the Ministry of Health and other major stakeholders like the NDLEA have warned against its harmful effects on users, yout5hs and teenagers are still abusing it. From all indication, I can say that there seems to be a national amnesia about the existence of a tobacco control law in Nigeria.
LEADERSHIP Sunday reveals that this substance abuse is happening despite the fact that the National Tobacco Control Act (NTCA) was enacted only in 2015.
For instance, Article 9 (1) in the regulation of smoking is quite explicit on the National Tobacco law: that except otherwise provided no person shall smoke tobacco or tobacco products in a residential house co-occupied by person who is below 18, in a try-cycle, vehicle, aircraft, public places etc.
Article 34 of Part XI is dedicated to penalties and applicable fines for violations.
Article 35 allows for search warrants to be procured for inspection of dwelling places suspected of harboring illegal or substandard tobacco or tobacco
Although the law has provided a legal framework for the production, importation, distribution, sale and consumption of tobacco in the country its implementation has remained a great challenge.
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, 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.
Sadly, according to WHO, the volume of smoke inhaled in an hour-long shi
Firstly, the top two most common reasons for smoking shisha LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered were that , 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.
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 simply said,
‘’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.
Speaking to a don in Shisha business, popularly called 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.
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.