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Mark secures Adjournment Debate on Shisha Smoking

(July 13, 2011)

 Mark has secured an Adjournment Debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday 19th July 2011 to debate the impact on health from Shisha Smoking.  This follows on from an Early Day Motion tabled by Mark, entitled ‘Health Effects of Shisha Smoking’ earlier this month which is gaining support from cross party MPs.

Mark said: “I have become increasingly concerned about the sudden rise in shisha cafes in my constituency and want to raise awareness about the issues surrounding shisha smoking, not only here in Preston, but also in towns and cities across the UK where there are similar issues. 

I have secured this debate to dispel some common myths about shisha smoking and urge the Government to take steps to educate smokers of the considerable health risks associated with shisha smoking and encourage cafe owners to comply with health and safety legislation when setting up these establishments.”

Martin Dockrell, the Director of Policy and Research for ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) commented   “ASH welcomes the initiative by Mark Hendrick MP to draw attention to the health risks and dispel some of the common myths about shisha smoking.   Fewer and fewer young people are starting to smoke cigarettes but in certain areas of the country shisha has become the new drug of choice, partly because people think – wrongly – that it is less dangerous.  Some smokers of flavoured shisha don’t even realise they are smoking tobacco.   However, research shows that shisha smoking is at least as harmful as cigarette smoking and may be even more so.   Users of shisha are at increased risk of mouth and gum disease, and sharing a waterpipe mouthpiece increases the risk of tuberculosis and hepatitis.  There is a clear need to improve public understanding of the dangers of using shisha and we urge health practitioners to take on this role, particularly in areas where shisha use is growing." 

Shisha smoking in shisha cafes is fast becoming a popular pastime, particularly amongst young people from minority ethnic backgrounds.  Proponents of shisha smoking often wrongly advocate that it is less harmful and addictive than cigarette smoking and that it is more preferable to other anti-social activities such as binge-drinking.  However, Maureen Talbot, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Using shisha to smoke tobacco is in no way a safer alternative to cigarettes. Shisha smokers are risking their health by exposing themselves to large quantities of chemicals that can lead to heart disease and addiction.  Second-hand smoke from shisha poses a health risk to non-smokers too. It’s an issue we simply can’t afford to ignore.”  

The World Health Organisation reported that a typical hour long smoking session involves inhaling 100-200 times the volume of smoke inhaled though cigarette smoking and that the smoke produced contains a high level of toxic compounds.  It also warns of the danger to pregnant women who are particularly vulnerable when exposed to either direct or passive shisha smoke.

Faruk Desai from the Preston & Western Lancashire Racial Equality Council said: “Recent research has shown that whilst smoking rates have decreased by 7% amongst the general population since 1998, this pattern has not been reflected amongst Black and minority ethnic communities.   We are aware both anecdotally and by research findings that there has been a sharp increase in the use of waterpipes by Black and minority ethnic communities which is of great concern to many agencies given the particularly harmful health implications such smoking techniques carry.   Due to this concern, we do believe that greater awareness of the impact of the use of different tobacco products is needed.”

Shisha awareness campaigns are being run where this issue is causing much concern in countries like the United States, India, Pakistan, Malaysia and the UAE.  Although the UK implemented a smoking ban in July 2007 and public health campaigns set up to help people quit cigarette smoking, the number of shisha smokers is on the rise.

Fay Watson, the Tobacco Control Programme Manager for Lancashire, said: “There is a clear need for media campaigns to inform the public about the dangers of shisha smoking.  People tend to think that tobacco is somehow filtered by the water or herbal flavourings in shisha pipes but this is not the case. It is not a safer way to use tobacco.  For venues thinking of opening up shisha bars, we would remind them that shisha bars are covered by both Smokefree and Age of Sale Legislation.  In Lancashire, we are developing a 5-Year Plan to reduce smoking rates and we will be tackling shisha tobacco as one part of that plan.” 

In Preston, there are a number of shisha establishments, some of which have recently faced legal enforcement action from the Police and Trading Standards due to non-compliance with smoking regulations and non payment of excise. 

Chief Superintendent James Lee from Lancashire Police Constabulary said: “Where we become aware of shisha being used as a business, we work in conjunction with a number of partners such as the Fire & Rescue Service, Trading Standards and the Health & Safety Executive, to ensure that all necessary legislation and licensing conditions are complied with.  If breaches are identified we, along with other relevant agencies, will take robust enforcement action to ensure the public’s safety.  We are also taking a longer term approach, in conjunction with partners and the community, to try and dispel the myths that shisha tobacco does not have the same harmful effects on health as traditional tobacco.”

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