It is believed that shisha smoking may be becoming more popular in the UK. Shisha smoking is a practice that originates from Middle-Eastern cultures. It involves tobacco that is mixed with flavouring being inhaled through a pipe.

The BBC reported today that in Leicester, the Primary Care Trust says it is surprised with the increase in patients visiting GPs with shisha-related health problems. These patients are mainly in the 15 to 24 year old age group.

Waterpipes are often viewed as being more harmless than cigarettes. However, health professionals warn that this is a misconception. In a World Health Organisation report, entitled “Waterpipe Tobacco Smoking: Health Effects, Research Needs and Recommended Actions by Regulators” the authors state: “Contrary to ancient lore and popular belief, the smoke that emerges from a waterpipe contains numerous toxicants known to cause lung cancer, heart disease and other diseases.”

The report also mentions: “The waterpipe smoker may… inhale as much smoke during one session as a cigarette smoker would inhale consuming one hundred cigarettes or more.”

While the water does absorb some of the nicotine, the WHO says smokers can be exposed to enough nicotine to cause addiction. Furthermore, the smoke they inhale still contains cancer-causing chemicals such as carbon monoxide. This means it can still cause the same kinds of diseases that are caused by cigarette smoking, including cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease. The report concludes that: “Using a waterpipe is not a safe alternative to smoking.”