It is an open secret that Sheesha has a negative health impact on its consumers. The Rwanda Health ministry outlawed Sheesha in a public notice dated 15th Dec 2017. That means there will be no importation, advertising or smoking of Sheesha in Rwanda.
Rwanda, again, has set a standard and a pace. In a statement, the Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance laments about the country enacting some of the best health policies that include the tobacco control act, but doing minimally to end the menace that is caused by Sheesha.
Sheesha has become a crowd pulling magnet in some areas in the capital city Nairobi. Some bars are popularly known because they provide Sheesha to their clientele.
”Our young people, especially girls, are being recruited into the vice of poisoning themselves by smoking Sheesha. It should be of concern to every caring leaders and law enforcement that the youth of Kenya are getting destroyed” says Joel Gitali who is the chairman of the Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance.
Kenya’s lethargic approach to Sheesha must be seen from a precedence it has set. Enacting the cigarette ban was met with resistance. The war against cigarette smoking is evidently fought by words and promises of commitment to the cause but the deeds that follow speak to a different cause.
Kenya like many other African countries has a growing population of young people. Manufactures of cigarettes and those peddling Sheesha look at these young fragile, impressionable and easily manipulatable youth as a potential market. Therein lies the problem. The politics of economics have led to bullying, arm-twisting and in some instances mega corruption to ensure that the status quo remains. Health implications not-withstanding.
Sheesha is not a ‘better’ alternative
Gitali is calling for a deeper introspection stating “We have seen the CS treasury play about with tobacco taxation. Taking decision without reading or by ignoring the law, and without consulting KRA. This must be corrected. The Parliament has,on a number of times, invaded by agents of tobacco companies to legislate in their labour. This country must be protected.”
BAT, one one of the worlds biggest cigarette manufacturer has been accused of bribing government officials and MP’s to go politely on anti-smoking laws. There are ongoing investigations in the UK investigating these claims that further include bribing officials working with rival companies in a well-orchestrated syndicate aimed at ensuring anti-smoking laws are stifled.
The allure of economic gains epitomizes greed breeding death. The dangers of sheesha intake are clear. Declaring the ban, the Minister of Health Dr Diane Gashumba stated “…sheesha tobacco smoking is damaging, addictive and dangerous to human lives. The smoke that emerges from a water-pipe contains numerous toxicants known to cause lung cancer, heart diseases, just to name a few,”
The ban is evidence-based. WHO released an advisory note that was contrary to popular belief that Sheesha is less harmful than cigarette smoking. In the advisory, it was noted that a water-pipe smoking session may expose a smoker to more danger over a longer period of time compared to cigarette smoking. The report went on to note that the smoke that one is exposed to in one water-pipe smoking session is almost equivalent to the smoke that one is exposed to puffing 100 cigarettes.
”Sheesha Must be banned in this country. If Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda are acting tough, why not their big Sister, Kenya. We need to walk the talk. To lead from the front. On behalf of the tobacco control fraternity, I demand that the Cabinet Secretary for Health stands for the people of Kenya.” continued Gitali.
The concluding remarks of the statement calling for self-searching are worth noting, “We cannot feign ignorance or engage in rhetorics as we lose a generation. We are staring at an epidemic in the face. NCDs have sharply gone up and tobacco is ranked highest on the list of the causal factors. We need to be responsible.”