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Shisha Smoking is not a safe alternative to cigarettes

November 18, 2013 9:28 AM

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Scotland’s largest health board has launched a campaign to warn people that shisha pipe smoking is not a safe alternative to cigarettes.

Shisha, also known as water pipe or hubble bubble pipe smoking, has become particularly popular with students and young people who may believe that it is less harmful than cigarette smoking.

In fact a 45 minute shisha smoking session is the equivalent of smoking 10 cigarettes.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, backed by ASH Scotland, is warning shisha smokers that the water pipe does not filter out cancer causing chemicals, tar and carbon monoxide.

And Glasgow and Clyde health experts also warn that even the tobacco-free herbal varieties are not a healthy alternative.

Fiona Dunlop, NHS GGC Lead for Tobacco, said: “Shisha has been increasing in availability and visibility over the past few years and people are mistakenly seeing the water pipe as a safe form of smoking.

“People seem to think that the water filters out harmful poisons but it doesn’t. Shisha smoking absolutely increases your risk of lung cancer and other lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Shisha may taste more pleasant than cigarettes, but don’t be fooled by the added flavours – smoking shisha is harmful.”

Postcards and posters highlighting the dangers of shisha smoking are being distributed widely throughout the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area with a special focus on universities, colleges and other venues where young people gather.

Sheila Duffy, ASH Scotland Chief Executive, said: “We are delighted to see NHSGGC highlighting the issue of shisha smoking, which seems increasingly popular with young people. However, as a tobacco product, it is illegal to supply it to under-18s.

“Some users believe it to be neither as harmful nor as addictive as cigarettes. But shisha not only potentially exposes smokers to the danger of carbon monoxide, it also makes them vulnerable to the harms of tobacco and the threat of addiction.

“In addition, herbal water pipe products are not a healthy alternative to tobacco products. Bars which sell lit, smoked tobacco-free shisha still need to comply with smoke-free legislation.”

Any tobacco smoking is highly addictive and Shisha smokers who want free help and support to quit or who want to find our more should visit or call Smokeline free on 0800 848484.


For further information either telephone 0141 201 4429 or email [email protected]

Notes to Editors

What does Shisha contain?
It is often mixed with tobacco (although tobacco free forms are also available) and comes in various sweetened fruit flavours. Although there are many different shisha products it usually consists of a mixture of light leaf tobacco, molasses, vegetarian glycerine and flavourings which produces a mild aromatic smoke.

How is shisha smoked?
Shisha mix is placed within a bowl at the head of the water pipe. It is then usually covered with foil and lit charcoal placed above the shisha mix. Smoke is then produced by the heated shisha mix. Sucking on the mouthpiece (which is connected to a hose) then creates a vacuum which causes the smoke to pass through the water (which cools it but does not filter all the harmful effects) producing bubbles.

Health Effects of smoking shisha
The extent to which smoking shisha is harmful to health depends on a range of factors including the size and type of water pipe used, brand of shisha mix, kind of charcoal used and the temperature at which it burns, duration and frequency of use, etc. Available evidence suggests that shisha smoking is associated with many of the known risks of tobacco smoking.

Fast facts:
• Smoking Shisha produces carbon monoxide and cancer causing chemicals
• Even tobacco free herbal varieties are not a healthy alternative
• Shisha smoking increases your risk of lung cancer and is likely to be a cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
• All tobacco containing products are potentially addictive
• One Shisha session lasting approximately 45 minutes is the equivalent of 10 cigarettes
• Shisha smoking produces second-hand smoke and is covered by smokefree legislation prohibiting its use in enclosed spaces
• Any product containing tobacco should have health warnings on it however this is not always the case with Shisha.

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Last Updated: 11 November 2021