Sheesha smoking, a modern way of addiction, is spreading among youngsters in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi like a jungle fire and this menace rapidly infecting the students.
Sheesha houses have been established in the posh localities of the twin cities during last 4 to 5 years and this mushroom growth of smoking dens is attracting the youths and the number of Sheesha houses has increased massively.
The most disgusting aspect of this practice is that smoking is on the rise among young adults under the very nose of authorities, but steps are being taken to control the stretch of Sheesha smoking to other areas.
Children below 18 who can’t directly buy cigarettes off the shelf, throng the `Sheesha Houses’ spread across the city including Damn-e-Koh, Shakerpariyan, Melody, Rose and Jasmine Garden, Jangal Hut and some other upper class restaurants, hotels and clubs to have a puff or two.
An influx of vehicles filled with teenagers, boys and girls, can be observed standing outside Sheesha Houses in the evening that continued till late at night.
It has been a practice that a large number of school and college students of both genders belonging to under-18 age group hang out the said Sheesha houses for smoking as they don’t face any hurdle here to satiate their desire.
An eyewitness, A Iqra university’s student, claimed that he has seen students of class 7th and 8th having Sheesha smoking and even drugs in one of such Sheesha houses.
“Once I went to a Sheesha House at Bank Square area in Melody Markete around lunch time and I saw 10 to 15 school girls smoking and enjoying sheesha”, he claimed.
Another visitor of Jungal Hut told this scribe that he talked to a group of teen-agers sitting in a Sheesha House and they told him that their parents were unaware about water pipe smoking habit and if they knew, they would have no objection, he added.
Sheesha, traditionally known as hookah was considered to be an integral part of rural south Asia. One can still picture a shaded spot under a tree in rural Pakistan where three or four elderly folks sit on a Charpai and take turns in sucking tobacco from the contraption which is known as a water pipe.
Even a decade ago, one could not have imagined that this rural derelict will become a fashionable pastime.
While latest `Sheesha’ means “flavoured water pipe smoking” and different Sheesha cafe offer a mixture of crude types of tobacco fermented with molasses and fruits and the sweet odour of fruits conceals the natural smell of tobacco’s tar and nicotine.
Social organizations in the town while expressing concerns at the aftereffects of Sheesha smoking said that it could cause diseases like cancer or other ailments.
Jaweria, an NGO worker, alleged that as the influential people were running Sheesha houses therefore the authorities were unable to take action. People termed the increased use of water pipe smoking among the most vulnerable groups as alarming and urged a complete ban on Sheesha houses and smoking.
She said that Sheesha should be subjected to the same regulations as cigarettes and other tobacco products and it should contain health warnings.
She added that the restaurants should inform their clients of the actual contents of Sheesha and media should be involved in creating awareness against the hazards of Sheesha smoking.
Awareness sessions against the hazards of Sheesha smoking and other substance abuses should be made a regular feature in all educational institutions, she said and added that surveys should be conducted to assess the extent of the problem and its prevalence in our society.
It is notable here that a recent World Health Organization says, tobacco is one of the most addictive substances available in the world and the life spans of tobacco users can be cut down by 15 to 20 years.