Shisha smok­ing ris­ing among Kur­dish young­sters

The Kurdish Globe - - NATIONAL -

Tak­ing a stroll through Er­bil's down­town mar­ket, the sight of shisha pipe smok­ing eas­ily catches the eye. Peo­ple, mostly youths, gather in front of the tea­houses and casi­nos to smoke shisha. This habit is hardly a new phe­nom­e­non but it has never been as wide­spread as it is now.

Shisha is an Egyp­tian word for water pipe or hookah. Fruit fla­vored to­bacco is burnt on top of lit char­coal and the smoke is then sucked through the pipe. It is now in­cred­i­bly pop­u­lar among young­sters of all cul­tures and eth­nic­i­ties whereas the prac­tice had been non-ex­is­tent among the age group a few years ago.

Although, there are no of­fi­cial statis­tics on the num­ber of hookah smok­ers in the Kur­dis- tan Re­gion, all indi­ca­tions point to a dras­tic in­crease among young­sters. Muham­mad Noori, who runs a tea­house in Er­bil's Eskan Mar­ket, said "We didn't serve hookahs in our tea­house un­til seven months ago. Our cus­tomers' de­mands made us pro­vide hookahs; I don't smoke it and I don't like at all, but peo­ple will not come to my tea­house if I don't serve it."

Ac­cord­ing to Noori, the in­crease in pipe use, which in­volves burn­ing fruit fla­vored to­bacco, is among 18 to 27-yearolds.

Af­ter Er­bil's se­cond­hand mar­ket of Dalalkhana changed in to a park, many shops turned their busi­ness into tea­houses and cafés. Youths in the af­ter­noons usu­ally gather in th­ese tea­houses to spend their time while smok­ing Shisha pipes.

"There are now a dozen shisha cafés in this al­ley. Four years ago there was just one. It's in­creas­ing in pop­u­lar­ity across the re­gion," said Salar Dalo, a 20-year old youth, while smok­ing at Hawler Café watch­ing the foun­tain works of the park.

Although, many cafés moved smok­ing ses­sions to the roof of their orig­i­nal premises fol­low­ing the smok­ing ban in 2007, many peo­ple still smoke hookah in pub­lic places which is sup­pos­edly for­bid­den.

In Novem­ber 2007, the par­lia­ment of Iraq's Kur­dis­tan Re­gion ap­proved a law to fight smok­ing in the province which stip­u­lates im­port­ing and ex­port­ing cigarettes from well-known in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies and im­poses fines on traders and smok­ers in pub­lic places. The law was sup­posed to come into ef­fect on June 1, 2008 and ac­cord­ing to the law any­one who lights up il­le­gally would be fined 10,000 Iraqi di­nars.

"I don't know why the government is not work­ing by the rules is­sued by par­lia­ment. Ev­ery time when I go to the mar­ket I like to drink a cup of tea in a tea­house with my friends but I don't feel com­fort­able with hav­ing so many peo­ple smok­ing shisha around me," said Samir Jalal, who was sit­ting at the Machko Tea­house in Er­bil.

Next to Jalal, a group of young boys were smok­ing pipes mak­ing the site al­most in­vis­i­ble due to smoke. 23-yeal old Kar­wan Azad was one of the smok­ers who said "Most of the young­sters gather in tea­houses and smoke shisha be­cause they are job­less. I never knew the taste of smok­ing was be­fore, but af­ter I grad­u­ated in univer­sity and couldn't find any jobs, I started to come here and learned to smoke." When asked if he and his friends are aware of the dan­gers of smok­ing shisha, Azad ex­plained, "we are aware that's not good for health but we for­get when we're gath­er­ing, chat­ting and hav­ing a smoke.”

There is a pop­u­lar mis­con­cep­tion among Kur­dish peo­ple that smok­ing shisha is not as harm­ful as smok­ing cigarettes. In fact re­searches have re­vealed that pipe smok­ing maybe more harm­ful than smok­ing cigarettes.

Dr. Dlawar Aziz, who has a master’s de­gree in fam­ily medicine, said "Many peo­ple are not aware of the neg­a­tive af­fect of shisha smok­ing on hu­man health. There is a great mis­con­cep­tion that shisha smok­ing isn't as harm­ful as cig­a­rette smok­ing. Ac­tu­ally many in­ter­na­tional re­searches have shown an av­er­age pipe smok­ing ses­sion of around ten min­utes is equiv­a­lent to smok­ing up to 20 cigarettes."

Ac­cord­ing to Dr. Aziz, hookah to­bacco and smoke con­tain numer­ous toxic sub­stances known to cause heart disease. Shar­ing of smok­ing pipes also in­creases the risk of tu­ber­cu­lo­sis and flu. Sec­ond-hand smoke from hookah units pose a se­ri­ous risk for non­smok­ers, par­tic­u­larly be­cause it con­tains smoke not only from the to­bacco but also from the heat source (i.e. char­coal) used in the hookah.

Those who smoke hookah in­hale a larger vol­ume of to­bacco smoke, more deeply and for a longer pe­riod than a cig­a­rette, in a smok­ing ses­sion. Smok­ing hookah has neg­a­tive ef­fects on a smoker's lung.

Hookah comes from Mid­dle East­ern coun­tries. Some hookah to­bacco con­tains herbs, fla­vor­ings or mo­lasses. The fruit-fla­vored hookah to­bacco is es­pe­cially at­trac­tive to teens.

Wait­ers pre­pare hookahs for their cus­tomers in To­day Cafe in Er­bil.

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