TANZANIA: FOR the few past years, shisha has been a source of enjoyment for different people, especially the youth, who seem to enjoy smoking it compared to cigarettes. For those who are new in this part of the world, shisha, or water pipe, is a singleor multi-stemmed instrument for heating or vaporising and then smoking either tobacco, flavoured tobacco, or sometimes cannabis, hashish and opium.
The smoke is passed through a water basin, often glass-based, before inhalation. For those who are regular visitors to entertainment spots in the country will agree that shisha business continues to gain momentum in various areas of the country, especially in cities despite the government acting tough on the business.
The ban on the use of Shisha in the country was announced in 2016, where among the leaders who were cited as banning the intoxicant with the aim of saving the youth who are the nation’s workforce is the Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa.
Former Regional Commissioners Paul Makonda (Dar es Salaam) and Jordan Rugimbana (Dodoma) also banned the use of shisha in their areas between 2016 and 2017.
All the aforementioned leaders rightly associated shisha with drugs, telling anyone who cared to listen of the negative impact on the lives of the country’s youth. During her press conference on May 31, last year in Dodoma, Minister of Health, Ummy Mwalimu said despite the presence of the Tobacco products control Act Chapter 121 which prohibits the use of some tobacco products, those items are still being used in the country due to the delay in the implementation of the law.
“The law has not been followed, it says that it is forbidden to use these products but these products have continued to be used, especially by a group of young people and some elderly people in big hotels of Dar es Salaam,” she lamented.
The minister was also quoted saying that some users of shisha mix it with illicit drugs, as she instructed Tanzania Medicines and Medical Devices Authority (TMDA) to conduct an assessment on the use of shisha, snuff and electronic cigarettes to enable the government to take action to reduce or prevent the use of these products to protect community health.
Ms Rachel Mwinuka, a medical doctor from Buguruni Hospital, says that smoking shisha can lead to different side effects to the human body, saying that mostly it causes cancer.
“People still don’t understand that when you have a habit of smoking shisha, you are at risk of getting cancer, especially throat and lung cancer, people need to understand these side effects early,” said Dr Mwinuka The good doctor added that smoking shisha might also lead to heart complications due to the fact that the smoke that enters the body can block blood vessels.
“A person who usually smokes a lot may experience heart problems, so the only way to avoid those complications is to avoid smoking shisha,” she said.
She goes further and says that shisha also affects pregnancies, which can help to explain the increasing number of premature babies.
“Due to addiction of using shisha, a pregnant woman can make life difficult for their unborn babies, that is why pregnant women are advised to avoid smoking shisha or cigarettes to protect the health of their unborn babies,” said Dr Mwinuka.
Another medical doctor from Mbezi Luis Dispensary, Dr Jacob Tweve says nowadays people have been consuming and using dangerous things as if they don’t cause any harm. Dr Tweve says that shisha can cause lung problems, especially asthma and fungus due to sharing the same smoking tube.
“Shisha can cause a person as young as 23 years old person to suffer from lung problems for the rest of their days, and it can even cause asthma, which is a rare disease, that is why people need to know what they are getting into when they start smoking shisha, especially the youth who are the majority consumers,” said Dr Tweve.
He says that apart from all the myriad of problems, shisha can cause a gum disease due to the effects of nicotine that is found in shisha which leads to bad breath and decaying teeth. Asked why they love smoking shisha, most youths say it makes them look cool and classy, and that it has a nice aroma because of the different flavours you can choose from.
An avid user of shisha, Mohamed Kisigo says by smoking shisha, it helps to elevate their social status compared to smoking normal cigarettes, which are also cheap compared to shisha.
“Shisha is expensive and it shows high status because only people who have money can afford it, while anyone can smoke cigarettes because they are very cheap and readily available in local shops and streets, but shisha is found in high end pubs and bars,” said Mohamed.
A pub owner which provides shisha, James Davis says that their regular customers consist of youth aged 20 to 40 years, both male and female. “Most of the time you find all the shisha containers are in use, where one container can be used by more than 10 people,” he says.
“With regard to the cardiovascular system, there is a significant acute rise in cardiovascular markers, such as heart rate and blood pressure. Shisha smoking has also been significantly associated with lung cancer,” says Prof Brendan Madden, a cardiothoracic doctor at St George Hospital.
To put more emphasis on the negative effects of shisha, President of Tanzania Cardiac Society (TCS), Dr Robert Mvungi says smoking shisha is among major causes of heart diseases especially to the youth.
He says the government should take deliberate measures to eradicate the use of shisha because the workforce of the country depends on the youth and most of them are dying young due to excessive use of hard liquors and shisha.