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

The author is a PhD student at Emory University Rollins School of Public Health. He is a former Fulbright Scholar who likes to write. He tweets as @amynmalik

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