A recent study carried out by a London college discovered that 61% of students had smoked shisha tobacco, and most of them had first tried it as minors. This is a worrying trend as research points out that once children start to smoke, they become addicted very quickly
, and if you start smoking in your teens, you are less likely to quit than if you start smoking later in life. Although accurate data are lacking for most of the UK, it is widely reported that more and more children are smoking shisha.
Current Government legislation states that it is illegal to sell tobacco to anyone under 18, and it is illegal to smoke tobacco indoors. However, as long as smoking shisha is seen as fashionable, socially acceptable and safe, young people will continue to be drawn to it.
Most youngsters are unaware that smoking shisha is dangerous and that it is linked to the same serious and life-threatening diseases as cigarette smoking, including cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease and infectious diseases. It’s important that this ignorance is tackled and youngsters are educated about the dangers of smoking shisha. A successful way to do this would be for the government to bring in legislation stating that all shisha tobacco products must be labelled appropriately and have strong health warnings – just like you would see on a cigarette packet.
The dramatic rise of shisha bars and cafes across the UK is another concern that must be tackled. These bars and cafes are reported to have risen by 210% since the smoking ban came into force in 2007. There are many reports of children being allowed, even encouraged, to smoke shisha in some of these bars and cafes. Although smoking indoors is a breach of anti-smoking legislation, which states that shisha pipes filled with flavoured tobacco must be smoked outdoors, bars and cafes get around this by providing outdoor seating areas for people to smoke.
It is time the government introduced licenses to regulate the café culture and make it compulsory for cafes and bars to display notices warning people of the health risks associated with smoking shisha. More spot checks need to be carried out in bars and cafes to ensure no-one under 18 is smoking shisha. Heavier penalties must be enforced on those who break the law.
However, this is not enough to stop the escalating shisha problem in the UK. There is a growing underground scene fuelled by smuggled shisha tobacco that must be tackled. Tougher penalties are needed to deter people from smuggling shisha into the UK from countries such as Dubai. Smuggled tobacco has no quality control and you never know what you’re getting. It is also easily sold to minors because dealers often target children and teenagers who can’t buy tobacco from shops. The smugglers make a phenomenal profit out of turning our young people into nicotine addicts.
With some researchers claiming that shisha smoking is becoming a modern ‘epidemic’ and an ‘emerging health crisis’ – it’s time our government did more to protect the next generation from the serious health problems related to smoking shisha tobacco.