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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Doctors push for stricter shisha regulations in Qatar

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Shisha / hookah / smoking / Souq Waqif

Several top medical officials from across the Gulf meeting in Doha this week are calling for new regulations to curb the use of shisha usage in the region, including outlawing smoking in public places.

Tawfik A.M. Khoja, the director-general of the GCC Health Ministers’ executive board, suggested to the Gulf Times that such a ban would reduce the social appeal of using shisha.

“Users tend to smoke with friends in cafes and other public places,” he said. “There should be policies banning the use of shisha in public places, which may help prevent and reduce shisha smoking.”

Such a move made be a tough sell in Qatar, where smoking shisha is a popular pastime and past restrictions have been met with resistance.

Shisha smoking

Late last year for example, managers of Souq Waqif implemented and then quickly withdrew rules that forced restaurants and cafes to set aside half of outdoor seating areas for non-smoking customers.

Managers of such establishments complained that the new rules didn’t make sense, as there would be queues of people waiting to smoke shisha while tables in the non-smoking sat empty.

Warning signs urged

In addition to calling for a public smoking ban, the GCC health professionals participating in the International Conference on Waterpipe Smoking discussed ways of reducing the appeal of shisha smoking.

That includes a GCC-wide ban on showing shisha use on TV programs, where it is often glamorized as a way of reducing stress, Khoja was quoted as saying.

“The extensive use of shisha in television programmes such as dramas and serials has a great impact among youngsters. Such indirect promotion of shisha is very common,” he said.

Movie

It’s not clear how such restrictions would work in a country such as Qatar, where most television shows are produced in other countries. According to the World Health Organization, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates already have indirect bans in place on showing tobacco products on TV and/or in films.

Additionally, doctors want smokers to be more aware of the ill effects shisha use has on the body by forcing cafes to post signs warning patrons of the health risks of using a hookah.

Since 2012, GCC countries have required graphic warning labels to be displayed on cigarette and shisha packages – something tobacco companies attempted to pressure Qatar authorities into removing due to their apparent effectiveness in deterring customers.

10 times worse than cigarettes

Cigarette / smokingHowever, Dr. Ahmed Mohamed Al Mulla, head of the smoking cessation clinic at Hamad Medical Corp. (HMC), said many smokers still have the mistaken belief that shisha carries fewer health risks than cigarettes.

While he told The Peninsula that he favors an indoor smoking ban, he also said that more research is needed on the health effects of shisha:

“Many people think shisha is less dangerous. But it can be 10 times (more) harmful than cigarettes. We need to do more research to prove that it’s harmful and put more policies in place to control shisha smoking,” he said.

Last month, HMC doctors announced a study on the specific health impact of shisha smoking on local residents. Specifically, researchers wanted to learn how the popular regional pastime affects heart, blood vessels and the respiratory system of daily shisha users who have never smoked cigarettes.

Specific statistics on the prevalence of shisha use in Qatar are not kept, although local health officials say that 37 percent of local residents above the age of 15 smoke some form of tobacco.

Thoughts?

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MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

You can take my land cruiser but you’ll never take my shisha!

It’s a freedom of choice issue as long as it doesn’t affect anyone else. Yes to a ban in enclosed spaces, no to enjoying it with friends in the outside.

SG
SG
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

It’s a bit like alcohol really… by the pool of course 😉

Rebecca Wyatt
Rebecca Wyatt
6 years ago

I would welcome restrictions as the second hand smoke is a real issue for me. I won’t go to a restaurant where I will be surrounded by smoke. Smoking is hazardous to your health and my health even if it does smell nice! My “freedom of choice” means that I am excluded from places I might otherwise enjoy. So be it.

Jason
Jason
6 years ago

I am simply curious where the “10x more dangerous than cigarettes” statistic came from?

Deepak Babu
Deepak Babu
6 years ago
Reply to  Jason

Probably cause of breathing in all that carbon monoxide?

hawkeye31
hawkeye31
6 years ago
Reply to  Jason

That figure is a little controversial. The reason why they say it it 10 times more dangerous is that shisha smoking sessions may last several hours, and some studies have shown that the amount of tobacco consumed in a 1 hour shisha session is equivalent to about 100 cigarettes. But people who use the shisha only tend to smoke a couple of time a week (or less) in general, as opposed to cigarette smokers who probably smoke daily. So over the course of a month, it probably evens out.

Restie
Restie
6 years ago
Reply to  hawkeye31

I agree that the figure is controversial as there are many elements that distinguish shisha usage to cigarette, cigar or pipe tobacco which make a direct comparison difficult.

1) The use of charcoal as an combustion source. Charcoal contains it’s own set of impurities as compared to processed tobacco and levels of carbon monoxide it produces.

2) The affects of direct and indirect heat on aluminum that is used as foil.

3) The affects of water as a ‘filter’ as opposed to a fibreglass or cellulose filter in other tobacco products.

4) The shared usage of shisha apparatus, which may lead to the transmission of contagious respiratory diseases.

5) The difference in inhalation and smoke temperature, shisha may prompt deeper lung hits as opposed to other tobacco products, such as cigars which are mostly mouth inhalations.

It is my extremely unqualified opinion that the above factors make shisha smoking a riskier habit than other tobacco products.

However, it shouldn’t be banned, instead establishments that serve shisha should not be allowed to serve food or drink other than basic water and refreshments, in order to stop propagating the restaurant/shisha business model that leads to many people being compelled to be in that environment when they don’t want to be.

Ali
Ali
6 years ago

We barely have anything to do in Qatar, that is what got us hooked on to shishas in the first place and now they want to ban it! This is gonna make Qatar the most boring country to live in. Specially since Qatar doesn’t have anything entertaining for young people, indoor sports are over priced, limited number of cinemas, horrible weather doesn’t support consistent out door activities, there are no concerts/events that are worth attneding, no theme parks and above all else the least social people that discriminate others by their class and race! If there were other things to do in Qatar I think people will naturally reduce smoking.

Ammad Khan
Ammad Khan
6 years ago

I read this article and it gave me some knowledge about shisha which is not ‘too’ dangerous for your health. http://www.smokingshisha.co

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