'Shisha' more harmful than cigarettes, warns WHO

The theme of shisha smoking as a dangerous new trend in tobacco use was a theme expressed in several sessions at the WCTOH.

World Health Organization tobacco expert Edouard Tursan d'Espaignet said, "A single puff from a water pipe nearly equals the volume of smoke inhaled from an entire cigarette, while one session of shisha can equal smoking 20 to 30 cigarettes in one go". Smoke from charcoal used to heat the tobacco also contains toxins.

The waterpipe -- variously called hubbly-bubbly, hookah, shisha or nargileh -- has long been popular in the Middle East and North Africa and is increasingly popular elsewhere. This has become an important issue for tobacco control since it is often overlooked by regulators. In addition, aromatic flavourings added to the tobacco appeal to younger smokers.

Gemma Vestal of the WHO's Tobacco Free Initiative says although smoking shisha has previously been the domain of older males, "younger people between 18- and 24-years-old living in cities and educated" are increasingly taking up the habit.

WHO says harmful effects include impact on the respiratory system, cardiovascular system and oral health.

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