• 5/19/2020

    Shisha Smoking Dangerous for the Smoker and Those Around Them

    Doha, 19 May, 2020: The World Health Organization (WHO) is warning about the dangers of shisha smoking in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. According to WHO, smoking shisha increases one’s risk of contracting COVID-19, not only because of the potential of contaminated water pipes or hookah and the increased risk of transmission of the virus from hand to mouth during the act of smoking but also because smoking can have many adverse effects on the body and the immune system which would greatly increase their risk of serious illness.

    Dr. Ahmad Al Mulla, Head of the Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) Tobacco Control Center, said contrary to what many people believe, smoking shisha is substantially more harmful than smoking cigarettes. 

    “Many people have the misconception that shisha smoking is harmless, thinking the water-filled pipe filters out toxic chemicals. However, the practice is more harmful than cigarette smoking. In fact, one session of shisha smoking is known to have harmful effects equivalent to smoking 20 to 60 cigarettes and shisha smoke contains a number of heavy metals and chemicals. The chemicals that can be found in emissions from burning charcoal for shisha have also been linked to several illnesses, including those that lead to reduced lung function and cause emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and lung cancer. Regular shisha smokers also have an increased risk for heart disease,” said Dr. Al Mulla.

    Dr. Al Mulla said the WHO has also found that the amount of toxic carbon monoxide released from shisha is not only dangerous to the smoker, but also to those around them, noting that second-hand smoke from shisha is more dangerous than smoke from other tobacco products. He says the WHO has also confirmed that just 30 minutes of exposure to second-hand shisha smoke, known as passive smoking, can have adverse health effects. He notes the toxic fumes from the smoke have also been found to remain in furniture and fabrics for an extended period of time and can travel through air conditioners, which poses a danger to everyone within the vicinity of the smoker, including children. 

    Dr. Jamal Abdullah, Smoking Cessation Specialist at HMC's Tobacco Control Center, says there are two types of shisha addiction – physical and social.

    “Physical addiction, in which the person uses shisha daily and becomes addicted, and social addiction, in which a person consumes shisha once or twice a week, normally on a social basis with friends or colleagues, are the two forms of shisha addiction. Regardless of the type of addiction, both lead to the same result, which is that the individual becomes addicted and puts themselves at increased risk for an array of health issues. Even smoking just once a month can have serious health implications because of the large amounts of toxins contained within shisha smoke. Smoking shisha has also been linked to increased rates of infectious illnesses, namely tuberculosis, herpes, and hepatitis,” said Dr. Abdullah.

    Dr. Abdullah said the Tobacco Control Center has a number of treatment options available to those wanting to quit smoking, including medications, nicotine replacement therapies, behavioral therapy, and a laser therapy treatment. He says if an individual has a strong desire to quit smoking, it is possible.  

    “We recently introduced a laser therapy treatment which is being used for the first time in the region. Each session takes about 20 minutes and the laser stimulates selected areas of the body, for example, the ears, face, and wrists. It does not cause any pain or negative side effects and so far has proved to be very successful,” said Dr. Abdullah.

    For appointments or more information on the Tobacco Control Center, call 4025 4981 or 5080 0959, or contact the Center's hotline at 5573 6025.