Shisha smoking less harmful than cigarette smoking? Here are five facts to clear the air

A customer smoking a shisha or "hookah" pipe at a cafe on Bussorah Street on Nov 4, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
A customer smoking a shisha or "hookah" pipe at a cafe on Bussorah Street on Nov 4, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - A ban on the import, distribution and sale of shisha will be implemented later this month, Parliamentary Secretary for Health Faishal Ibrahim said on Tuesday.

The ban will come under the new Prohibited Tobacco Products Regulations under Section 15 of the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act.

The clampdown on the tobacco product, which is burnt and smoked through a pipe connected to a water vessel, is in view of its adverse health effects.

Here are the myths and facts of shisha smoking.

MYTH: Shisha smoking is less harmful than cigarette smoking because it is mostly flavoured "steam".

FACT: Shisha smoke is not steam or water vapour. A session of shisha smoking is like smoking 100 or more cigarettes. It also exposes the smoker to a higher level of poisonous substances such as nicotine and carbon monoxide.


MYTH: Shisha smoking causes less health issues than cigarette smoking.

FACT: Shisha smoking also puts the smoker at risk of cancer and respiratory diseases. It can cause a decrease in sperm count, and has adverse effects during pregnancy, such as miscarriage and stillbirth.

Shisha smoking can also spread infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and hepatitis, through the hose connector of the shisha-smoking device, which is often shared during a session. Germs accumulated in the hose connector can spread if it is not sterilised properly.

MYTH: Shisha molasses have little or no nicotine, and water filters out most of the harmful substances.

FACT: Not true. Nicotine is present in the molasses. The water does not filter out most of the nicotine. Instead, the nicotine is absorbed into the smoker's bloodstream, along with other poisonous substances.


MYTH: Shisha smoking is not addictive.

FACT: Nicotine, which makes cigarette-smoking highly addictive, is also present in shisha tobacco. Shisha smokers have been shown to receive similar or even higher doses of nicotine. They also reportedly suffer from many, if not all, of the signs of nicotine dependence.

MYTH: Shisha tobacco contains fruit, so it is healthier than regular tobacco.

FACT: Shisha tobacco does not contain fruit. It is flavoured to smell like fruit, and that does not mean it is healthier. The lower temperature of the smoke and the sweet smell mask the fact that shisha contains many of the harmful substances also found in cigarettes.


To get help to quit shisha smoking, call QuitLine on 1800-438-2000.

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