What shisha ban?

Published: April 15, 2012

Despite the ban, shisha smoking is still one of the widely seen sights across many cafés and it isn’t even as if it's being done secretly. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD SADAQAT

The Sindh Government supposedly banned shisha smoking in the province for two months, starting March 26 this year, and vowed to take strict action against those who violated it from April 1. I use the word ‘supposedly because the ban hasn’t gone into practice in the streets of Karachi as yet.

Karachi, the provincial capital, is the hub for restaurants and cafes that offer shisha, and there is quite a big demand for it as is evident by the number of youth who frequent these places on a daily basis. Try going to one of these cafés on a weekend and you would be hard pressed to find a place to sit. They are packed with teenagers and twenty-year-olds sitting around in groups, chilling and smoking. The trend is of concern to the policymakers, as according to various studies, shisha smoking is much worse than smoking cigarettes.

The policymakers of Sindh first took notice of this in May last year, and a ban on shisha smoking in public was approved by the parliament in principle, but didn’t go into effect till last month when the directive was issued by the home ministry. However the crackdown hasn’t happened as yet, over two weeks later.

Shisha smoking is still one of the widely seen sights across many cafés and it isn’t even as if it’s being done secretly. No sir! You can see people enjoying their shishas at the corners of the roads, in plain public view.

I don’t agree with the principle of banning things. We live in a supposedly democratic society where everyone should be free to do whatever they want as long as they are not encroaching on the rights of others.

If something is injurious, the better way of going about it is dispensing education regarding its harmful effects on health rather than banning it.

Some people may argue that second hand smoke is bad for those  in the vicinity, and hence shisha smoking is encroachment on the rights and privacy of others. However, the thing to remember is that the cafés/restaurants that serve shisha do advertise themselves as shisha bars, which means those entering it know what to expect inside.

You can’t walk into a lion’s den and then complain about being bitten by it. Shisha can be banned from public places including parks, gardens, restaurants and residential areas, just like smoking has been, but places that advertise themselves as exclusive shisha cafés should be excluded from the ban.

My other qualm about the ban is that why was it imposed for two months only? Isn’t that ridiculous? Is smoking shisha harmful in April and May but good for health come June?

If it has to be banned, it should be banned. Period.

I don’t think the policymakers and authorities thought it through completely, like they don’t in many cases, and went ahead with a half cooked plan to impose a ban without caring how it comes into effect.

Read more by Amyn here, or follow him on Twitter @amynmalik.

Dr Amyn Malyk

Dr Amyn Malik

A Fulbright Scholar and a graduate of the MPH program at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He tweets @amynmalik

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Hassan

    You just contradicted yourself there- first you say you don’t support banning shisha cause of free act movement democracy provides us with and then at the end you argue why it shouldn’t have been banned for just two months, rather definitely forever? make up your mind.Recommend

  • Raza

    Sorry, but your argument doesnt hold. By the same argument, we should allow open sale of heroin and cocaine; everybody knows they’re harmful right? And if the problem is with them being addictive, then cigarettes shouldn’t be allowed either. Not that I’m in favor of cigarettes either, but shisha is indeed harmful (and yes more harmful than cigarettes), and for some ridiculous reason it is in vogue with the youth, so its there. However, I agree that bans should be throughout the year and be properly implemented; as unfortunately I can also attest that shisha smoking is being done all over the place without any prohibition. Recommend

  • Mustafa Moiz

    The ban will not be effective. Anyways, I hope they do end up banning shisha, though I’m sure “liberals” will pounce on that as another reason people start using hard drugs like heroin. Or maybe they won’t, since shisha smoking is not so common in the West. Anyways, shisha is worse for your health, so it should be banned.Recommend

  • Big Rizvi

    This place is strange. Drugs and Alcohol is banned because it is ‘unislamic’. What about cigarettes and shisha? Are they not intoxicants too, are they not harmful for health? Clearly, in my books, all that can do more harm than good, is haram. Also, since strict action was to be taken from the 1st of April, I believe it was an April Fool joke by the government of Pakistan. Recommend

  • Sunny

    We have a coolnes dilemma in Pakistan. The new Sheesha dilemma is one of them. In my Village of Punjab people call it a Huqqa and huqqa inclues a variant of sheesha as well. But i dont know city dwellers have to differentiate in everything from village Paindus and the word Sheesha is adopted to look Cool rather than using the traditional word “Huqqa” that is prevalent in villages. Recommend

  • Aashesh

    I am agree with writer. Sheesha should be banned for longer period. It happens that when the inspectors go for survey they just take some money from the owner of that cafe. It happened in front of my eyes.Recommend

  • Usman Usmani

    As i’ve told in d last topic about Hafiz Saeed. Tribune Newspaper or Magazine doesnt have Mature columnist. They encourge youth to do bad things… They dont come up with this idea dat Shisha iz a bad thing. I’m wondering in dis whole text Author wasnt against shisha instead he waz against why shisha banned!!!Recommend

  • darkera

    I’m sorry but your article is terribly confusing, first you say banning shisha in a democratic society like ours is not a good idea, then on the other hand you say if it has to be banned it should be banned, completely? and do you mind highlighting and further elaborating on the policies that could make a difference in shisha intake by young teenagers? Like setting a certain framework in schools, colleges and universities about the awareness on adverse effects of shisha on health? That is what we’re really interested in hearing. Recommend

  • Sana

    For those who think the article is confusing, the writer is trying to highlight the confusing policy adopted by the government. The policy is neither democratic (not banning sheesha) nor is it conservative/totalitarian one (banning it completely). It is something in the middle and thereby achieves nothing.

    The best way to go about it is by highlighting the dangers of sheesha to the youth through school and media and let them make their minds up for themselves that smoking it is bad for.their health.Recommend

  • Kamran Siddiqi

    Smoking tobacco is one of biggest risk to human health. I agree that people should have a right to decide about the risk they are taking but they don’t have a right to harm other people’s health and that is why smoking tobacco should be banned in public places and cars. Regarding ban in bars and restaurant, even it only has smokers inside, what about people who are working in those places? Don’t they have right to breathe fresh air?Recommend

  • Parvez

    It really makes no difference what this government says or does not say, as it has lost its moral authority and credibility. As such its ability to govern is nonexistent. Recommend

  • Shadytr33

    Its because of “let everyone do whatever they want to do because its a democracy” that the situation of Pakistan is so messed up. Everybody is already doing what they want either it be corruption or violence. We need proper and strict laws and some direction.Recommend

  • Nobody

    Well considering how wildly successful the ban on alcohol has been, I see no point in a shisha ban, and I’m opposed to telling grown ups how to behave (keeping within the realm of sensibility to maintain a civilized society <——–meaning no, I don’t think heroin and cocaine and etc should be allowed).
    I never understand why people compare cigarettes and shisha to heroin and cocaine. It’s apples to oranges. How many full functioning heroin addicts are out there? And how many fully functioning cigarette/shisha addicts are out there? Agreed in the long run, tobacco use kills more people according to numbers, but I’m more from the school of thought that an adult should be left to make his or her own decisions.
    Warn people, make them aware of how it affects your body and then live and let live. How about focusing on stemming the sale of concentrated acid as opposed to wasting time and resources on shisha bans and the like…Recommend

  • Abdul Sattar Shah Khattak

    Kindly, it’s better to make up mind. Either to treat sheesha as a Cigratte. You can’t bann it but you can take some seriuos steps, like at media and other social tools can be used for discouraging it. Or one can use at as drug, bann it permenently. But one shouldn’t blame one being enlighted moderate (democrate) or socialist ( conservative or fundamentalist ), because there’s a thin line between the definition, charachterisitcs of sheesha. So, my first article will be on ‘sheesha’. I hope all above getting my point.Recommend

  • obscurantist

    as if educating and letting them free will for decisions has really WORKED in outside countries..as if ppl dont smoke anymore out there..
    but if that doesn’t work i guess now is the time to frame out some rules and start acting accordingly.Recommend

  • http://www.mzahoor.blogspot.com maryam zahoor

    HAHA!
    A ban only leads to more desire, thus more underground sales.Recommend

  • Faisal khalil

    According to my point of view. There is difference between all these narcotics. Some or too toxic can’t be quit and some have minor. As for sheesha concerned it is harmful but we can’t compare it with heroin and cocaine. Concurrently a new curse is undermining our youth. We have already facing many challenges to culture our youth, make them productive for country. Recommend

  • omair shahid

    i agree with the writer that it should be ban for long period however i disagree with you that they have not taken any action they have taken action but not proper action because they have closed sheesha bars in place like tariq road, gulshan-e-iqbal but you can find it easily in defence & Clifton. and government should have talks with the sheesha sellers that find another business and give time period.Recommend

  • hassan

    @ashesh … so you were AT a shisha cafe when an inspector came and was bribed off..and you feel sheesha should be banned? #strange Recommend

  • Abdul Sattar Shah Khattak

    @ maryam zahoor

    agreed…..Recommend

  • Hira

    I will never be able to understand the pleasure people get out of smoking.. be it shisha or cigarettes or cigars! I live in dubai and there are plenty of shisha places here but I have never been to one.Recommend