Smoking shisha is dangerous: expert

KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 9, 2013): The perception that smoking shisha is not dangerous must be changed as it could be detrimental to health, said a respiratory expert.

Institute of Respiratory Medicine (IPR) director Datuk Dr Abdul Razak Abdul Muttalif said many thought shisha was free of the effects of tobacco when in reality, it contains a mixture of tobacco and fruit flavours.

"Most shisha smokers said they liked the fruity taste when smoking shisha, but they were not aware that it has been mixed with tobacco.

"And, what is most worrying is that there are individuals who add marijuana, alcohol or other substances which would be addictive," he told Bernama here in a recent interview.

Shisha, which originated from India, was known as Hookah, Narghile, 'Waterpipe' and Bong, and is very popular throughout the world, especially in Middle East countries.

Shisha has two types of tobacco, namely 'mu'assal' (mixture of tobacco, fruits such as apple, banana and cherry, as well as sweet substances apart from glycerine, flavouring and colouring) and 'ajami' (unflavoured, dry and original).

Shisha tobacco which does not burn continuously by itself, is assisted by a piece of smouldering charcoal.

Dr Abdul Razak said both cigarette and shisha were addictive and harmful to health, if not contained early.

"But shisha is more dangerous based on the number of puffs, smoke and the duration of each puff," he warned.

Based on earlier studies, a session of shisha which took about 30 minutes to an hour produced 101 puffs, as compared to a cigarette smoking session which involved only 11 puffs.

From the inhalation of smoke, shisha produces 503ml of smoke in each session, as compared to 50ml for cigarette, while the duration of each shisha drag is 2.7 seconds, and only 1.5 seconds for cigarette smoking.

Dr Abdul Razak said several studies in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, USA and Europe showed the effects of shisha were the same as cigarette smoking, leading to lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

The practice of sharing of shisha tube could also spread diseases such as tuberculosis, hepatitis and mouth ulcers, he noted.

"Apart from producing more smoke which is equivalent to smoking 200 cigarettes, shisha also contains 100 to 200 times more nicotine than cigarette," he said.

A national health and morbidity study in the country indicated that smoking shisha was popular among youths in urban areas, especially those aged between 15 and 19.

"For adults (18 years and above), it is almost 20 per cent and what is most worrying is that 1.5 per cent of Malaysian women also smoke shisha," he said. – Bernama