Southwark Council issues shisha warning this Stoptober

1 October 2018

There are many misconceptions that surround shisha and this Stoptober Southwark Council is highlighting how smoking shisha tobacco can affect your health.

Research data suggests that the vast majority of people do not realise the dangers of smoking shisha, often seeing it as a safer alternative to regular cigarettes.

A 2014 survey of 1,200 people in south east London, with approximately 200 Southwark respondents, found that 64 percent of people did not know that shisha usually contains tobacco. A further 53 percent of people did not think that shisha represented any danger to their health.

Around a third of south east Londoners also thought that smoking shisha was safer than regular cigarettes because of the presence of water and fruit flavourings.
Although shisha smoking has not yet been subject to the same level of study as cigarette smoking, there is a body of evidence that points to shisha smoking carrying many of the same risks associated with cigarette smoking, including a variety of cancers, as well as its own unique health risks.

Smoking shisha tobacco gives your body a big hit of toxic chemicals in one go. Wood cinders or charcoal that are often used to burn shisha tobacco are also believed to increase the health risks as when they combust they release their own toxicants. Shisha smoking results in significant emissions of carbon monoxide and acute carbon monoxide poisoning has been reported in some users.

In partnership with 'It’s Still Tobacco', a community and advocacy group who campaign for fruit flavourings to be removed from shisha to decrease its appeal to young people, Southwark Council will be raising awareness of the health impacts of smoking shisha tobacco on social media and via posters around the borough.

Cllr Evelyn Akoto, cabinet member for public health and community safety said: “Shisha has gained popularity around the globe, though perhaps notoriety would be more accurate. For the most part Shisha smoking has flown under the radar in terms of public awareness of the health implications. It’s time this changes, we need to move away from the long-standing but unsubstantiated idea that shisha is the safe alternative to smoking.

“In many ways smoking shisha can be likened to the effects of binge drinking; when you smoke shisha, your body is getting a big hit of poisonous chemicals in one go. While further study is needed to flesh out what we already know, there is sufficient evidence to show how harmful shisha is. This month, whether you smoke shisha every week, once a month, on a night out or on holiday its time to realise that shisha is still tobacco and can have a serious impact on your health.”

Dr Mohammed Jawad, Research Fellow at Imperial College London and member of It’s Still Tobacco, said: “Shisha disproportionately affects young people in Southwark because they’re highly attracted to fruit flavours used in the tobacco. The public should remember that the UK has banned flavoured cigarettes for a reason – because of their appeal to youth. There’s no reason why the same laws shouldn’t be applied to shisha tobacco.”

  • If you would like help to quit shisha or you’re looking for information on other tobacco support services, please visit our website

Page last updated: 01 October 2018