The British Heart Foundation warned of the dangers of shisha on No Smoking Day as new data reveals a dramatic rise in the number of shisha bars across the UK coupled with widespread unawareness of the harm it can cause.
Freedom of Information (FoI) data from 133 local authorities in major towns and cities across the UK shows the number of shisha bars has rocketed by 210 per cent since the year the smoking ban came into force. The figures show there were 179 known shisha bars in 2007 compared with 556 now.
Shisha smokers inhaling flavoured tobacco through exotic waterpipes have become a common sight in city streets. But under the romance and heady smells lies a familiar killer the BHF wants the public to be aware of.
Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the BHF, said: “Contrary to popular belief, shisha is not safer than smoking cigarettes. Don’t be duped by the sweet smell and wholesome sounding fruity flavours, if you use shisha you are a smoker and that means you’re putting your health at risk.
“It’s linked to the same serious and life-threatening diseases as cigarettes and there are added risks because you often smoke it for far longer than you would a cigarette and you’re also exposed to toxins from the wood or charcoal used to burn the tobacco. Fortunately No Smoking Day is a great opportunity for anyone who smokes, in whatever form, to try and quit.”
Shisha smoking is linked to the same kinds of diseases as cigarette smoking including heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease and problems during pregnancy (1). Yet more than one in ten (13%) UK adults surveyed for the BHF thought there were no health harms from using shisha, and just 43 per cent knew shisha could contain tobacco (2).
The FoI data shows 53 per cent of local authorities have – or have had – a shisha bar since 2007, while more than 40 per cent have seen a rise in the number of shisha bars since the smoking ban came into force (3).
This is in stark contrast to the steady decline in cigarette smokers in the UK (4) and has prompted the BHF to urge people to find out the facts about shisha, which is also known as hookah, hubble bubble and narghile, as part of its No Smoking Day campaign.
More than 750,000 people attempt to quit on No Smoking Day each year. But the charity is concerned thousands of quitters may still be putting their health at risk by using shisha, and that the rising number of shisha bars could provide a new gateway for people to start smoking and become addicted to tobacco.
Almost everyone surveyed for the BHF were unaware that during a typical hour-long shisha session you can inhale the same amount of smoke as from more than 100 tobacco cigarettes (5). A total of 84 per cent of respondents thought it was 10 or fewer.
The survey results also showed shisha is most popular among young people with more than a quarter (27%) of 18 to 24 year olds saying they’d used it. Worryingly misconceptions about the dangers of shisha were highest among this group and those aged 25-34 with 15 per cent each believing there were no health harms from shisha at all while 44 per cent of the younger adults thought it was less harmful than cigarettes.
By comparison, 17 per cent of overall respondents thought shisha was less harmful than cigarettes.
The data showed shisha is no longer a pastime for perceived specific community groups alone, with almost one in ten (8%) people of white ethnicity saying they’d used it.
The survey also showed almost one in ten (9%) former cigarette smokers have used shisha as well as almost one in ten (8%) non-smokers.
Smokers who want to find out more can visit www.taketheleap.co.uk or call 0800 434 6677.
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