Governmnent should regulate shisha smoking

Sisha smoking is gradually becoming one of the acceptable ways to unwind the evening after a long day’s stress, most especially among the younger generation.

Many young people find it trendy to call each other for dates and one of the principal activities is taking cold bottles of beer and smoking shisha. This trend is very common in many bars around Kampala and neighbouring areas, and surprisingly it is going on unabated.

Maybe for starters, one may be wondering what I mean by ‘shisha’ because it is not yet a commonly used term, most especially for people aged forty and above.

This term may sound strange, however to young people of eighteen to twenty-eight years of age, sisha is a very common dictum and discussions around it too are vey familiar.

Shisha is a glass-bottomed water pipe in which fruit-flavoured tobacco is covered in foil and roasted over charcoal. The tobacco smoke passes through a water chamber and is then slowly inhaled by the smoker.

When you talk to young people who have made it a habit to smoke shisha, they have all the best words they can use to describe it. Some will tell you that it is flavoured, tastes nice and smells sweet. None among them has ever thought of its side effects.

The World Health Organisation has commissioned several studies whose reports indicate that sisha smoking is more dangerous than cigarette smoking. One report indicates that someone who smokes shisha is equated to one who has smoked 200 cigarettes, which literally means that sisha is a more dangerous option.

One other believable argument in the report is that sisha consumers inhale a lot of smoke in one go compared to cigarette smokers, but also because shisha is so sweet it is inhaled more deeply, thus giving it the chance to quickly damage the internal body organs at the same rate, or even above that of cigarettes.

Sisha is feared to be more life-threatening because it is often smoked for a long time and exposes the smoker to toxins from wood or charcoal used to burn the tobacco.

Dressed in very tinny, body-exposing clothes, comfortable on stools or cushioned chairs, in couples of boyfriend and girlfriend, young men and women in groups of five to eight will be found in multiple groups in bars across the city, enjoying this rather life-destroying pastime.

In the best of their comfort – going by their facial expressions? they will continuously and consistently, for over seven hours, inhale nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide, which also contains heavy metal such as arsenic and lead. This obviously exposes them to the future danger of heart disease, cancer and problematic pregnancies for females, if they don’t fail to conceive.

What takes me aback is the fact that while Uganda is still struggling with more crucial issues like the economy, inadequate infrastructure, health, education and the East African federation, the people that the continent is looking up to for ushering change, have become victims of reckless living and will soon be the victims of their own wrong decisions. It eventually becomes a really purposeless life.

This takes me back to our legislators and other policymakers who concentrate on pedantic and less weighty matters, instead of focusing their efforts on building a nation with an agenda to shape a people whose lives are purpose driven.

Why I am becoming an interested party in this case is because I am fully aware that this lifestyle trend will in the long run become a national burden in terms of the demand for drugs, medical personnel, ambulatory services and many other health care demands that will have to be addressed in trying to save the already poisoned population.

It is my humble prayer, therefore, that this country refocuses itself and borrows a leaf from countries like China that have put in a lot of effort in grooming the young generation because it basically constitutes the building blocks of any nation.

Otherwise, Uganda will fall into an abyss because of evils like shisha, homosexuality and other emerging moral upheavals.

The author is the Public Relations Officer, National Medical Stores.

© 2016 Observer Media Ltd