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Shisha even riskier than cigarettes – Letters to the Editor

I agree with the views of Seki Chan (“Don’t overlook harm of shisha smoking”, January 29).

Besides the statistics provided by Ms Chan, shisha [or hookah] smoking has other harmful health effects.

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, smoking shisha is actually more harmful than smoking a cigarette. According to the CDC, the amount of smoke inhaled during a typical shisha session is about 90,000 millilitres, compared with 500ml to 600ml inhaled when smoking a cigarette.

Furthermore, according to the American Lung Association, a study of shisha smoking found that nicotine and cotinine increased up to 250 per cent and 120 per cent respectively after a typical 40- to 45-minute smoking session.

Another potential problem is that commonly used heat sources for burning the tobacco, such as wood or charcoal, are likely to increase the health risks from shisha use.
This is because when they are burned on their own these heat sources release high levels of potentially dangerous chemicals, such as carbon monoxide and metals.

Furthermore, the social aspect of shisha smoking with shared mouthpieces may put many users at risk of contracting infectious diseases and viruses, such as tuberculosis, hepatitis and herpes. Even if the shisha smoke is second-hand, it is potentially dangerous because it contains smoke from the tobacco and from the heat source used to burn the tobacco. There are also harmful effects for pregnant women.

Research has also shown that teenagers who have smoked shisha before are more likely to become cigarette smokers.

I agree with Ms Chan that more people should be made aware of the harmful effects of shisha smoking.

Secondary schools in Hong Kong need to make students aware of the risks so they are not tempted to try out something that is becoming more popular in bars in the city. This should be part of general health education in these schools.

Eunice Li Dan-yue, Singapore

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