Mariam Alireza, Arab News - We have been recently blessed with the ban of cigarette smoking in public areas (airports, hospitals, government buildings).
This is a relief for the luckier majority of us who are not smokers. Unfortunately, it does not last long and deliverance from second-hand smoke is short-lived.
To our dismay, some seem to accept and even bless a recently-revived fad, shisha, or argeela, a habit that was looked down upon a couple of decades ago.
In the recent years, parents and their young sons and daughters sit around the same restaurant table, hubble-bubbling side by side and blowing smoke at each other’s faces, deeming it a less harmful habit than cigarette smoking.
If so, then they are in for bad news!
According to Professor Bertrand Dautzenberg, a respiratory tract specialist, a 45-minute session of shisha corresponds to smoking 40 cigarettes.
With each inhalation, a shisha smoker takes in two whole liters of smoke, whereas a cigarette puff releases 0.5 liter. Moreover, shisha smokers are under the false impression that the water in the container filters noxious substances in tobacco.
Another bad effect of shisha: cooled-down smoke makes the smoker retain the inhaled smoke longer in the lungs than hot smoke. One more thing to take into account, around 10 grams of shisha tobacco leaves contain tar and nicotine that are equal to that of ten cigarettes. In addition to this, tobacco burned by charcoal produces more heavy metals (lead, nickel, etc...) than by cigarette smoke.
Another dangerous substance that is emitted by shisha smoke is carbon monoxide. Just to give you a quick idea; the residue of these toxic materials line the interior walls of the lungs, destroying their delicate alveoli and resulting in emphysema — respiratory failure, a painful ending to life.
Shisha’s multifaceted damage extends to the transmission of highly contagious and infectious diseases such as herpes, hepatitis, tuberculosis, and more through its mouthpiece, or nozzle, which circulates around the table from mouth to mouth.
Seemingly innocuous and enjoyable habits can lead to a plethora of health problems (heart and vascular diseases, cancer) that you can definitely do without.
Unfortunately the practice of shisha, argeela, or houka in public places (restaurants, cafes, hotels) has spread from East to West and South to North, leaving behind heavy clouds of secondhand smoke and loads of harmful substances.
Adults and young people lounge smugly in cafe terraces and in restaurants, drawing in smoke from shisha nozzles and puffing out billows of smoke, oblivious of the damage they are inflicting on their lungs, heart, and health, let alone harming the innocent bystanders. They are also ready to defend the habit at any moment!
Remember, they are not only burning their health, but they are also destroying yours and mine by contaminating our air with the thick clouds of their second-hand smoke. Our silence only encourages the harmful practices of the few.
Instead, we need to express our firm displeasure in order to have health officials ban shisha and other ways of smoking in public areas.
Clean air is our God-given right. We should protect it from any kind of pollutants and our health from damage.
I hope, by reading this humble column and medical studies and researches on smoking, officials take stronger measures against public shisha, cigarette, and cigar smoking in order to safeguard our health from such harmful emissions.
(Mariam A. Alireza is a holistic science specialist. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Log on to arabnews.com for previous articles.)