Rwanda has banned smoking of water-pipe tobacco, popularly known as shisha, starting Friday. Rwanda becomes the second country in Africa to ban shisha smoking after Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli imposed the ban in July last year.
Other countries with similar bans are Pakistan, Jordan, Singapore and Saudi Arabia.
The Rwanda Health ministry has also outlawed the importation, advertising and smoking of shisha within its territory over health concerns.
In a public notice effective December 15, 2017, the ministry warns of sanctions to those who flout the ban arguing that “…shisha tobacco smoking is damaging, addictive and dangerous on human lives.
“The smoke that emerges from a water-pipe contains numerous toxicants known to cause lung cancer, heart diseases, just to name a few,” reads the communication from Health Minister Diane Gashumba.
World Health Organisation (WHO), in a recent advisory note to regulators, revealed that smoking shisha posed grave health risks.
In a single session, it said, shisha smokers can inhale smoke of 100 or more cigarettes.
“Cigarette smokers typically take eight to 12 cigarettes with a 40 to 75 millimetre puffs and inhaled 0.5 to 0.6 litres of smoke unlike shisha smoking sessions which typically last 20 to 80 minutes, during which the smoker may take 50 to 200 puffs which range from about 0.15 to 1 litre each,” it said.
Shisha smoking has become increasingly popular among young people in Africa, including in Kenya.
It goes by several names including hookah tobacco, maassel, narghile and argileh and comes in several flavours including fruity, minty, rich and creamy.
The highly toxic tobacco substance is smoked using a hookah (waterpipe).
The smoke exposes the user to the addictive chemical nicotine as well as tar, carbon monoxide and heavy metals such as arsenic and lead.
People are drawn to it for being ‘cool’, with patrons flocking to shisha parlours saying it is harmless. A common belief is that the risks of tobacco are reduced since it is purified as it passes through the water.
On the contrary, WHO insists that even after it has been passed through water, the smoke produced contains high levels of toxic compounds— including carbon monoxide, heavy metals and cancer-causing chemicals.
Shisha smoke is associated with increased risk of disease— cancer, heart and lung complications.
It is also known to cause problems during pregnancy among female smokers.
The side effects may not be immediately noticeable but just like cigarettes, the harmful fumes slowly damage certain parts of the body of a shisha smoker over time.