United Arab Emirates - Despite Ban, Shisha Habit Spreading in Public..

November 9, 2009 - Despite a ban on smoking of shisha (hookah, water pipe, sheesha, shisha, narghile )outside shisha cafes and coffee houses, there’s a marked increase in the number of people who can be seen puffing away in public places in Ras Al Khaimah (one of the emirates of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), UAE is a federation of seven emirates).

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The trend has sparked concern among residents about the health risks related to smoking of shisha. Residents fear that smoking shisha in places like coffee shops poses risks to their health because shisha contains tobacco.

Ahmed Hassan, who resides in the Corniche area, said the spread of shisha outlets attracts even youngsters who are below 18 years. He noted that in the evenings, scores of men and even women can be seen sitting in coffee shops and smoking shisha.
“Many youngsters are attracted into smoking shisha because of the sweet smell of flavoured tobacco or due to peer pressure,” said Hassan.

Uthman Ali, another resident, said: “Unlike the shisha houses which are specifically visited by the smokers, some coffee shops and places around the Corniche, where people smoke shisha, are visited by several others who are not shisha smokers. The health of these people could be affected.”

For Saeed Ahmed, shisha houses operating in public places like shopping malls, beaches or other places of entertainment, which are visited by many people, do pose a risk to public health. Mahdi Rajab, a shisha smoker, said he enjoys smoking shisha. It’s now a pasttime for him on weekends. “Visiting shisha houses or coffee cafes to ‘smoke shisha’ involves many other social activities and it does not mean that everyone merely sits quietly smoking their pipe,” he said. Some of his non-smoking friends put up with the smoke because of the relaxing aroma, he said.

Hamad Al Shamsy, director of the Department of Economic Development (DED) in Ras Al Khaimah, admitted that there has been an increase in the number of licensed cafes which serve shisha, but all of them have to comply with the laws. He said huge penalties would be imposed on those violating
 the rules. According to the DED, there are 39 registered shisha caf├ęs in
 Ras Al Khaimah.

Reference: Despite Ban, Shisha Habit Spreading in Public, Sebugwaawo Ismail (ismail@khaleejtimes.com), Kkaleej Times online, 11/9/2009.

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