The country’s health ministry has raised a red flag on the recent rise in shisha smoking in the Gambia, saying the practice is primarily done in restaurants and hotels involving young people between the ages of 25 and 40.
According to research, the Long-term effects include impaired pulmonary function, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, esophageal cancer, and gastric cancer. In addition, short-term hookah use is associated with acute health effects, including increased heart rate and blood pressure, reduced pulmonary function, and carbon monoxide intoxication.
Many people think that drawing tobacco smoke through water makes Shisha less harmful than cigarettes, but that’s not true. In a shisha session (usually 20-80 minutes), a smoker can inhale the same amount of smoke as a smoker consuming over 100 cigarettes.
This concern, among others, was raised by Seyfo Singhateh, Program Officer Non- Communicable Diseases (NCD), during a press update on the latest efforts launched by the Ministry of Health (MoH) to combat the use of tobacco in the country over the weekend.
According to him, Shisha, the latest tobacco industry invention, is mainly targeting and heavily marketed in low and middle-income countries like The Gambia, which is becoming a major public health concern.
He said that most Shisha smokers perceived the product as a passion and luxury when in a real sense, the product remains deadly and kills.
“If you go to most of our restaurants, our hotels, even on the streets, you will find many of our young people having Shisha and enjoying themselves. Most of them perceived it as a passion and luxury when in a real sense, the product remains deadly and kills because the amount of tobacco found in one Shisha session, according to statistics, is equivalent to between 50-100 sticks of cigarettes,” Seyfo Singhateh, Program Officer, NCD.
He added: “One puff of Shisha is equivalent to 5-10 sticks of cigarettes, and by the time you are done with one session of Shisha, you already consume 10-15 packets of cigarettes. So the consumption of Shisha smoking in the country is very high. Moreover, our interactions with the young people revealed that some users are no more putting water in the jar on the base of the cylinder but are now putting in Alcohol or other intoxicants, including cannabis and other hard drugs, to go high.”
NCD Program Officer further disclosed that more than four hundred thousand (400 000) people, equivalent to 16.7 percent of the Gambian population, are smokers.
‘Young people between the ages of 25-40 are the highest consumers of various types of tobacco products brought into the country, including cigarettes, electric cigarettes, cigars, and Shisha, among others,” he said.
“16 7 percent of this population are cigarette smokers, and putting this into real figures will be around four hundred thousand (400, 000) people are smoking a cigarette. The prevalence is higher among the male population 31 percent, it is also higher among the age group between 25-44years, and these are the people in their productive age in society,” Program Officer, NCD further highlighted the threats of cigarettes for the country.
He called on Gambians to put their hands on deck and help in the fight against cigarette smoking by adhering to the anti-tobacco regulations designed to eliminate the consumption of cigarettes in the country.
The public health officers also allow dealers, traders, and users of cigarettes and tobacco products to play by the rules of labeling their products, desisting from selling cigarettes to minors, stopping cigarette stick sales, and keeping a distance of 100 meters from people while smoking.