Amid efforts to reduce tobacco usage in Qatar, local medical researchers are conducting a study to further examine the health impact of smoking shisha.
Hamad Medical Corp. (HMC) is specifically looking into how the popular regional pastime affects heart, blood vessels and the respiratory system. To arrive at its findings, HMC is looking to interview individuals who have smoked shisha daily for the past decade, but have never smoked cigarettes.
Considerable research on the harmful contents of shisha smoking already exists, with HMC doctors saying one session is the equivalent of puffing through a pack of cigarettes. However, there is less information on the long-term health impact of only huffing on a hookah.
Within those studies that do exist, academic researchers often separate waterpipe and cigarette smokers in their studies, though some acknowledge that many individuals will have used both forms during their lifetime.
While specific statistics on the prevalence of shisha use are reportedly not kept, HMC said that 37 percent of Qatar residents above the age of 15 smoke some form of tobacco.
The high number of smokers in this country may be one reason that several anti-tobacco efforts have come up short in recent years.
Last November, restaurants and cafes at Souq Waqif were ordered to stop serving shisha indoors and set aside half of their outdoor tables for non-smokers. However, managers at the popular destination appear to have quickly backtracked on the the seating rules.
It’s already illegal to smoke cigarettes or waterpipes in closed spaces, even though many restaurants and cafes continue to serve shisha indoors.
And several residents have recently been noting on Twitter how common it is to see someone smoking a cigarette inside a shopping mall.
— Khaled Ramadan (@KASRamadan) September 4, 2014
However, a new law is currently in the works to strengthen enforcement of the country’s anti-smoking laws.
Other countries in the Middle East are also looking at ways of reducing shisha smoking rates.
Earlier this year, municipal officials in Jordan went further by vowing to enforce its existing ban on smoking in public places by refusing to renew or issue new licences in Amman to serve shisha – effectively banning the practice in cafes.
Those interested in participating in the HMC study can contact Ahmed Al Mulla at 4439-2778 or Al Adawi at 4439-0637.