Thursday, February 24, 2011

NST: MMA wants shisha ban widened... By Masami Mustaza

MMA wants shisha ban widened

NST: 2011/02/24
By Masami Mustaza

More restaurants and eating outlets, particularly in urban areas, have allowed the smoking of shisha. — NST picture by Mohd Fitrie Muhamad 
KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Medical Association yesterday called for the shisha to be banned from local council premises following Kota Baru Municipal Council's decision to stop their use in eateries.

MMA president Dr David Quek said the shisha -- a blend of tobacco, molasses and flavouring smoked with a pipe -- should be banned in as many council premises as possible to help reduce the spread of tobacco addiction.

He noted that the World Health Organisation announced in 2007 that one session of shisha smoking would yield a nicotine intake equivalent to more than one pack of cigarettes.

Dr Quek said more eateries and other outlets allowing the smoking of shisha had been springing up in urban areas.

"We are not sure if they need a licence to operate, but restrictions should be applied, such as no smoking indoors. Youths should not be misled that this is safe or trendy because it isn't."

He added that once the smoking of tobacco in any form started at an early age, many would become addicted to the habit, which would bring about health complications, such as heart disease and cancer.

"Perhaps, we must highlight the health dangers of shisha with the same graphic warnings for tobacco products. Imposing higher taxes on shisha is also useful in getting this out of the reach of the young."

Bernama reported yesterday that the council had banned all food outlets from allowing shisha smoking with immediate effect.

Its secretary Mohd Anis Hussein said action would be taken against outlets that did not heed the ban.

National Fatwa Council chairman Tan Sri Dr Abdul Shukor Husin said the council had yet to come to a decision whether to impose a ruling to ban shisha smoking.

He said the council was researching on the content of shisha to determine if it was harmful to users.

Read more: MMA wants shisha ban widened


Shisha curbs 

NST Editorial 2011/02/25

SHISHA smoking is said to be a hazardous pleasure because, like cigarettes, it is tobacco-based. While the Mayo Clinic in the United States has declared that it may actually be more dangerous than the cigarette, because it exposes the smoker to larger volumes of toxins, the findings of a 2008 study in Pakistan are inconclusive. 
In Malaysia, the recent blossoming of this mode of socialising has brought on calls for its banishment from certain premises by the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA). The doctors' concern is understandable. But the shisha, a water pipe that goes by many other names, has been around for centuries, and it may be a habit whose longstanding acceptance could make it harder to break. 

Said to originate in Iran, it was brought to India -- where it is called the huqqa -- by a medical practitioner in the Mughal court to reduce the risks of tobacco smoking to the emperor. In this, it shares the same irony as the synthesis of heroin to cure morphine addiction. The water is supposed to act as a filter absorbing toxins from the smoke, a conclusion challenged by contemporary detractors. Today, shisha cafes are growing in popularity the world over.

To circumvent restrictions on tobacco use, cafe operators in the US, for example, are switching to mu'assel, a fragrant syrupy mixture of tobacco and molasses or honey, an Arabic concoction apparently also enjoyed in Malaysia. In opposing the proposed ban, some here have used the excuse of attracting Arab tourists. As unconvincing as that may be, it is nevertheless proof of the shisha's popularity. Others, meanwhile, have argued for cigarettes, rather than the shisha, to be banned.

Whatever the position, the fact remains that there has yet to be a universal ban on cigarettes anywhere in the world. Even with a definitive finding linking cigarettes to premature death, to act harshly on the individual choice to smoke is beyond the ken of most governments. Some of the toughest measures have been adopted by New York City, which is set to extend its smoking ban to municipal parks and other public areas. Many Western capitals are on the same warpath.

Shisha, despite its social dimension, should not be treated differently from cigarettes. It should be banned from smoke-free areas and be subject to the same rising restrictions and taxes as other tobacco products. Yet a case can still be made to make allowances for its cultural aspects. In the end, all forms of tobacco consumption appears destined to be pushed into the privacy and seclusion of the smoker's home.

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