Water-pipe smoking, known by a variety of names like sheesha, hookah, hubble-bubble etc, has been in vogue for many centuries. It is believed that it was invented in the Indian subcontinent by a physician as a less harmful method of tobacco use. According to sources, over 110 million people worldwide smoke water-pipe. In Pakistan, sheesha is gaining popularity among the young generation, especially the teens. The intake of other forms of tobacco and nicotine is largely unacceptable to most people but water-pipe smoking is deemed socially acceptable. It is easily available at cafes in all major cities, which offer a variety of flavoured aromatic tobacco. According to a survey, those who indulge in water-pipe smoking are aged between 14-20 years – 60 percent of them hail from the upper class, 35 percent from the middle class and 5 percent from the lower class. The charges per session vary from Rs500 to Rs800 and, in less-privileged areas, from Rs200 to Rs400.
Another research shows that 35 percent sheesha-smokers believe that it is less harmful than cigarettes. The fact is that a sheesha-smoker inhales up to 200 times more smoke in a single sheesha session than he would inhale from a single cigarette. The heat used to burn the tobacco in sheesha pipes increases health risks to the smoker and people around him. It affects the cardiovascular and respiratory systems and may also become the cause of various types of cancer, infertility, and high blood pressure. The use of sheesha should be curbed by health warnings and informative sessions conducted at educational institutes.
Javaria Ismail Sheikh