‘Shisha is too fun to ban’

Published: May 12, 2011

Most people who smoke shisha – which comprises a large section of the youth – are unaware of the health risks it entails.

A study published in 2008 revealed that there is a link between heavy hookah smoking and incidence of cancer. And yet, the Sindh Assembly’s decision to outlaw the smoking of shisha has been met with much skepticism.

Twenty year old Hassan* says:

“It is rubbish. They should ban cigarette smoking first!”

But will arresting the frequency of cigarette smoking make the ban on shisha more acceptable?

“Banning cigarette smoking will show that the government has a clear policy against smoking,” Hassan asserts. “Prohibiting shisha will only affect a small portion of the general population.”

The question of acceptability looms like a specter, putting a match to numerous contentious – and somewhat unsolvable –debates. Zahra*, a student in Karachi says:

“I find Bachal Shah’s statement – ‘not only boys, but teenaged girls also go to restaurants to smoke shisha’ – to be extremely derogatory and sexist. It takes the stereotyped image of woman and distorts it even more. I feel it could have been phrased better. It would have had a stronger impact.”

Hookah smoking has been deemed a popular activity in most South Asian countries and in the Arab world. Is it then apt to consider a ban of this nature as an assault on human liberties? Afsar*, a Lahore-based business student says:

“I think it should only be enforced in public places. This way, people who want to smoke shisha – in spite of the health risks involved – will have the freedom to do in the privacy of their own homes.”

Hookah smoking is also perceived as a predominantly elitist activity. It has become a fixture for various social gatherings and events.

Will this interdiction on shisha significantly alter people’s mindsets?

Fine arts student in Karachi, Farima* says:

“The shisha ban is rather absurd. There are countless other issues that are in need of potent attention and consequent action. The hazards created by shisha are insignificant in comparison.”

It is vital to analyze the impact this will generate in society. Rahman*, a twenty-one year old argues:

“I feel this ban will curb opportunities youngsters have to hang out and chill out. The youth in particular will feel deprived and may start using shisha underground. On the other hand, it’s good to see people taking such initiatives to promote health concerns.”

Although the ban on shisha is a stepping stone for change, there is still an inkling of resistance for it. Perhaps this can only be remedied if a tangible change in mindsets is propagated. But exactly how can this change be initiated? Zain* says:

“I don’t think the tactful use of advertising helps. There is no guarantee that it will work. I remember when cigarette ads were followed by public services. Did that stop people from smoking?”

Perhaps the government should consider marketing this new policy. Most people who smoke shisha – which comprises a large section of the youth – are unaware of the health risks it entails. They only perceive it as a pleasurable pastime and thus find the ban to be a violation of inalienable human rights.

It is only through an innovative awareness campaign that the government can convey its standpoint to the naively unacquainted youth.

*Names have been changed to preserve the identity of the respondents.


Taha Kehar

A blogger on social events and has previously worked as Assistant Editor for a media magazine. He is currently pursuing Law Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies. He tweets @TahaKehar.

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

  • Nida

    I agree with *Afsar. It should only be banned in public places. That way the message would be subtly conveyed and the usage of sheesha automatically reduced. Completely banning it is ridiculous and will inadvertently cause a wave of protests. Recommend

  • Noor Kamran

    Love it, good work! :)Recommend

  • http://www.romaisachoudhry.com Romi

    I feel the sooner they make a law against it, the better impact there will be in the ban.
    More time spent on debating this issue, can only give time to those who will start underground clubs and what not.
    Drinking is prohibited, yet it goes on; but only for those who can afford it.
    Sheesha can be banned, yet it will go on; but only for those who will be able to afford such risks.Recommend

  • Tanya

    Nice to see how you are using different mediums to present a thought and view. Shows skill. Recommend

  • Fahad Raza

    Aww… well !!! I don’t think that will be much trouble goofing around this law …. just they have to do is replace the glass water furnace with a metal furnace Job done Now its Hukkaa…
    ANNneyway! if they are so concerned why on earth not banning Smokin Cigarette or Munchin Gutkkas for cryin out loud. Man I think its just a gimmick.. these MPA’s are so into drinkin one day they will fight to restore it.This aint about sexist or about chilling out youth its about makin money from restaurants and fast food sector thriving.
    Don’t get me wrong though All the Sheesha Smokin party is on hot coal over this.. even if it is seriously harmful, more chances of cancer in these Sheesha smokin den that any where so… be safe and stay way from these shesha dens… Pop Ecstasy ;) Just kidding
    Agreed its only thought…an innovative awareness campaign not through this Shwang wang BAN cause it will be played around like refreshment law during weddings.Recommend

  • Nobody

    That Karachi student, *Zahra, is right, what a sexist and somewhat stupid statement. It sounds as if Bachal Shah is saying now that girls are smoking (gasp!) it’s more damaging than it was when only guys smoked (so either guys are made of steel and their manly-man selves are unaffected by the tobacco, or they’re expendable so who cares what happens to them…..?)
    Aaanywaaaays, silly rant over. Moving on, I agree people should be made AWARE of the risks associated with smoking of any kind, but a blanket ban seems like a bad idea. Rarely do blanket bans work to stop people from smoking, it’s just creating a bigger problem. IMO an age restriction makes more sense, and maybe prohibiting smoking indoors (if that hadn’t already been done?), be it in a cafe or a restaurant. But people should be allowed to smoke in an outdoor setting if they so choose. If an adult, young or old, is aware of the risks and chooses to smoke, it’s his/her prerogative.
    Plus, as pointed out by some already, there are far bigger issues that need to be at the top of the list in Pakistan. Recommend

  • Balma

    Yes, ban huqqah (tribune editors, please follow the rules of Urdu to English transliteration, e.g. it is Quran, not Kuran) and make alcohol legal (with appropriate age requirements).
    Is there any mai kaa laal who will propose this in the Sindh assembly.Recommend

  • CB Guy

    As per doctors, smoking reduces life expectancy by 10-14 years and off-course the good ole’ cancer is almost inevitable. Smoking a sheesha/huqqa is like smoking 10 cigarettes in a go, as per experts and certainly the youth is running fast towards an early demise, more like a slow suicide if you ask me. Its a good step by the government and i hope its implemented upon. I also hope that proper awareness programs are launched about the risks and potential consequences. I also hope that there is a ban on smoking altogether as it is in Nepal. Recommend

  • Sahrish Ahmad

    I don’t understand as to what banning a thing like sheesha has to do with violating human rights It is lame when youngsters go around defending something as ordinary and as useless like sheesha. Banning will only prevent people dying early. So, whats the issue? It should be banned right away. There are better ways of spending time hanging around with friends for sure.
    The tradegy of today’s world is that we can not trace back the consequences to the actions that caused them. Everthing has become complicated,and we do not take the time out to analyze our actions and their consequences. Therefore, we see people going around defending their rights to put their lives in danger. It is THEIR life after all. However, the problem is that many youngsters take up sheesha courtesy their peers. Therefore, we become responsible for promoting a thing that putting the lives of people around them at risk. Same goes for drinking and smoking. Recommend

  • http://www.ayeshahoda.wordpress.com Ayesha Hoda

    It is only through an innovative awareness campaign that the government can convey its standpoint to the naively unacquainted youth. I agree completely. I don’t think banning is of any help in Pakistan. People will still find ways to smoke shisha if they really want to.Recommend

  • parvez

    Am I the only one noticing something wrong with the title or is it worded so for a reason.
    I was not much good at English but this does look wrong.Recommend

  • Balma

    Bhai Parvez,

    This is how the burger biraadri of Pakistan speaks and writes English. TooTee-PooThee English. Broken english. And, they are proud of it.
    Then, when Ray Dave types jootaay lagaatay hai’n tou inn sub burgers kee ghairat jaag uThTee hae!Recommend

  • rafia asif

    preventing is better than banning.sound steps should be taken to discourage this thing.laws are often ignored in this society.smoking shesha symbolise high status and fashion.n little kiddos are involved in this activity n dieing for the sake of fashion not knowing what they are inhaling.the need is to take measures to help spread the awarness Recommend

  • Saba

    You’ve got to see the FB comments and likes on this blog. WOAH!Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/5893/shisha-is-too-fun-to-ban/ azeem

    ummhh sheeesha is not good thing Recommend

  • huss

    well, at least they are not doing drugs……

    who am i kidding. of course they are.Recommend

  • Ramisha

    makes sense.
    should be banned in all provinces.Recommend

  • Professor JAVAID KHAN FRCP

    Those who still have liking for shisha are requested to read WHO report on Shisha.Typical one hour long water pipe smoking session involves inhaling 100-200 times the volume of smoke inhaled in a single cigarette. Shisha smoke contains high levels of toxic compounds, including carbon monoxide, heavy metals and other chemicals.

    Even just by sitting in a room where shisha is being smoked, you inhale 30 – 40 times more carbon monoxide than when sitting in a room with cigarette smoke.If you consume shisha in side a restaurant in UK you will be fined UK pounds 200.

    Think you know it all? Think again.Your life is very precious.Protect it from Shisha.

    WHO | TobReg – Advisory Note Waterpipe Tobacco Smoking: Health Effects, Research Needs and Recommend
    The Tobacco Free Initiative announces the release of a WHO Study Group on Tobacco Product Regulation scientific advisory note on waterpipe tobacco smoking. This advisory note addresses the growing concerns about the increasing prevalence and potential health effects of tobacco smoking using waterpipe.Recommend

  • Mirza

    Shisha is fun but so is sex. Both should be confined to the privacy of homes and not public. In addition tobacco is a pre-cursor of many diseases including lung cancer. It is also a gateway to the other drugs. For example if one is not a smoker, he cannot start with smoking marijuana. However, smokers would not have any problem to inhale it.Recommend