Shisha pipes are a recent trend in the UK. More and more young people are taking up shisha smoking as it is becomes increasingly available in bars and cafes around UK, however, what do we really know about shisha pipes? How harmful are they and finally what other names do people use to describe shisha smoking?

What is a shisha pipe?

There are two parts that make a shisha pipe; Firstly, shisha, which is a type of tobacco that is available in various flavours. Secondly, the pipe, this is a multi stemmed instrument where the shisha tobacco is heated and the smoke is passed through a water basin, similar to other smoking tools e.g. Bongs.

How is a shisha pipe harmful?

Contrary to popular belief Shisha pipes are just as harmful as cigarettes. Here are some reasons why:

  • Although shisha tobacco comes in different flavours, it contains all the same toxicants known to cause lung and heart disease and problems during pregnancy the same as cigarettes.
  • Shisha smoke delivers almost the same amount of nicotine as cigarettes, leading to nicotine addiction.  Shisha should not be considered as an alternative to smoking tobacco or cannabis.
  • Shisha pipes are usually shared amongst friends and therefore have the risk of transmitting diseases such as tuberculosis and hepatitis.
  • Shisha tobacco is usually burnt on top of wood or charcoal releasing toxins from the wood or charcoal

Other names for shisha pipes:

  • Hookah
  • Hubble Bubble
  • Narghile
  • Water pipe

Shisha cafes are becoming more and more popular around the UK, nevertheless shisha is still a tobacco product and shisha pipes in cafes are not allowed to be sold to under 18’s. There are alternatives such as, shisha pens which are made with flavoured oils or vapours instead of tobacco.  Theses still present risks as often there is no certainty regarding what is being inhaled.

Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Contrary to popular belief, shisha is not safer than smoking cigarettes. Don’t be duped by the sweet smell and wholesome sounding fruity flavour’s – if you use shisha you are a smoker and that means you’re putting your health at risk.

Robin Hewings, Cancer Research UK’s tobacco control manager, said: “We know that smoking rates are dropping but there is a real concern that the number of people smoking Shisha is on the rise. Shisha’s are a health risk and we would urge people to treat them with caution.”

E-Cigarettes – Should they be banned in public places?

With the news that France is planning to ban electronic cigarettes from public places, and subject them to the same tight controls as tobacco, will the UK follow suit?

Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances consumed by humans.  Smoking-related illnesses kill around 114,000 people a year in the UK and it costs the NHS an estimated £2.7bn. Many health campaigners, however, are excited by the sudden boom in the use of e-cigarettes, with around one million smokers now said to have tried them.

E-cigarettes are a popular method of tobacco cessation. They are designed to replicate smoking behaviour but without the use of tobacco, tar, smoke and other harmful compound chemicals that do the vast majority of harm in real cigarettes.  With the electronic cigarette, the nicotine is delivered to the lungs via a spritz of water vapour – hence, the term “vaping” – from a small canister which is contained within the battery-operated plastic “cigarette”.

However as the popularity of the E-cigarette, as a healthier alternative to cigarette smoking, increases, the product now faces the prospect of greatly increased regulation and even a possible ban from use in public places (some establishments have already implemented this) with some critics arguing that their health claims have been overstated and that they could encourage the smoking of real cigarettes if marketed at impressionable children and young adults.  Doctors continue to debate the possible impact of some of the vapours’ ingredients – including propylene glycol, which irritates airways, and formaldehyde, which is known to raise lung and nasal cancer risk.

Even though many E-cigarette users claim that they have helped greatly in nicotine replacement therapy, it is actually illegal for manufacturers to market an electronic cigarette as a tobacco cessation device. Under new proposals, electronic cigarettes are to be classed as ”medicines” in order to tighten up the regulation of products containing nicotine.

It means tough new tests for manufacturers producing them, and tighter controls on how they are marketed and sold.

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