Concernced citizens are calling on the government to follow the footsteps of other African countries and ban smoking of water-pipe tobacco, popularly known as shisha, as the number of young people taking up smoking through this route is soaring.
The highly toxic tobacco substance is smoked using a hookah (water pipe) and had gained popularity at entertainment establishments in Malawi.
Minister of Civic Education Grace Chiumia said government has received a number of complaints, particularly from parents.
She said “most” Malawians felt there is the possibility of Shisha to be adulterated with prohibited substances such as cannabis and heroin.
Health experts warn that the water pipes which have had a surge in popularity , are more damaging than cigarettes.
Experts fear many shisha smokers are unaware of the health risks they are taking. They claim that shisha smoking – inhaling flavoured tobacco smoke after it has passed through a water basin – is significantly more damaging than smoking normal cigarettes.
Most of the southern African country’s 16 million people are deeply conservative Christians. It also has a Muslim minority.
Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM) deputy secretary general Reverend Grey Mwalamu said there is need to have “legislation” regulating the distinctive pipes and Shisha cafe culture.
Pastor Matilda Matabwa of the Malawi Assemblies of God said there are concerns that Shisha encourage young people to engage in immoral behaviour, especially girls.
The health campaigners warn that despite the wholesome-sounding flavours, shisha tobacco is just as dangerous and is linked to the same life-threatening diseases, such as heart disease, cancer respiratory disease and problems during pregnancy.
The pipe sharing during the smoking of shisha could lead to spread of infectious diseases like TB, experts warn.
World Health Organisation (WHO), in a recent advisory note to regulators, revealed that smoking shisha posed grave health risks.
In a single session, it said, shisha smokers can inhale smoke of 100 or more cigarettes.
Tanzanian President John Magufuli imposed the ban on Shisha smoking last July.
Rwanda became the second country in Africa to ban shisha smoking and Kenya has also banned the Shisha in response to concerns raised with regard to health risks posed by its use.
Other countries which have banned shisha are Pakistan, Jordan, Singapore and Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, in Parliament the Dowa East legislator Richard Chimwendo Banda has asked parliament to act swiftly on drug and substance abuse that is threatening lives of young people in the country.
His comments follows reports that A 26-year-old Lilongwe-based Malawian man, Riad Randeri, has died in Brazil in what his parents and community members suspect to be a drug mission gone wrong.
In his contribution to President Peter Mutharika’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) themed We Have Delivered presented in Parliament on Friday, Chimwendo Banda told Parliament that there are six young people admitted to St Johns Hospital in Mzuzu due to drug and substance abuse.
He attributed the development to high unemployment rate among te youth in the country, accompanied by lack of initiatives that would improve their welfare.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :