Rwanda bans shisha importation, advertising and smoking

Rwanda bans the importation, advertising and smoking of Shisha within its territory over health concerns including its possible cause of cancer.

Rwanda has banned the smoking of water-pipe tobacco known as shisha starting Friday 15, health minister Dr. Diane Gashumba said in a statement.

The minister said the new order follows an advisory by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that found that shisha is “damaging, addictive and dangerous”.

Shisha smoking among young people in Africa has become quite popular.

The health ministry also banned advertising of shisha saying that sanctions would be imposed on people who don’t follow the new law.

Rwanda becomes the second country in Africa to ban shisha after Tanzania.

Shisha, the origins of which are disputed (some say India, others Persia or Turkey) is a glass-bottomed water pipe in which fruit-flavoured tobacco is covered with foil and roasted with charcoal. The tobacco smoke passes through a water chamber and is inhaled deeply and slowly; the fruit-flavoured tobacco tastes smooth and smells sweet, enthusiasts say, making it an enjoyable and unrushed experience.

How harmful is shisha smoking?

Traditionally shisha tobacco contains cigarette tobacco, so like cigarettes it contains nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide and heavy metals, such as arsenic and lead. As a result, shisha smokers are at risk of the same kinds of diseases as cigarette smokers, such as heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease and problems during pregnancy.

It’s difficult to say exactly how much smoke or toxic substances you’re exposed to in a typical shisha session.People smoke shisha for much longer periods of time than they smoke a cigarette, and in one puff of shisha you inhale the same amount of smoke as you’d get from a smoking a whole cigarette.

The average shisha-smoking session lasts an hour and research has shown that in this time you can inhale the same amount of smoke as from more than 100 cigarettes.

Some people mistakenly think that shisha smoking is not addictive because the water used in the pipe can absorb nicotine. In reality, because only some of the nicotine is absorbed by the water, shisha smokers are still exposed to enough nicotine to cause an addiction.

Shisha use has some extra harmful risks
Shisha smokers often inhale more smoke than cigarette smokers because of the length of time a shisha session lasts. One session can last up to an hour during which shisha smokers will inhale a large amount of tobacco smoke as well as the second-hand smoke of others. A report from The World Health Organization (WHO) noted that the smoke inhaled in a typical one-hour hookah session can equal 100 cigarettes or more. The WHO report also claims that even after it has been passed through water, shisha tobacco smoke still contains high levels of cancer-causing chemicals. Shisha smoke may also contain combusted charcoal or wood which can increase the chemicals in the smoke that cause cancer and heart disease.

Shisha tobacco smoke can contain

  • up to 36 times more carcinogenic tar than cigarette smoke
  • up to 15 times more carbon monoxide
  • higher levels of lead, nickel and arsenic
  • hydrogen cyanide and a whole bunch of potent carcinogens
  • nicotine, a chemical that causes an addictive effect


Also, shisha contains tobacco; therefore, it is linked to the same serious and life-threatening illnesses as cigarettes, such as cancersheart diseaselung disease and many more.

And, that’s not all! If the shisha pipe is not properly cleaned, sharing it with others can increase the risk of contracting diseases, such as tuberculosis, hepatitis, meningitis and other infectious diseases.

Since smoking shisha involves smoking for a longer period of time, inhaling higher levels of toxins deeper into the lungs and also sharing the waterpipe, there can be little doubt that smoking shisha is not just as dangerous as smoking cigarettes –  but even worse.

Is herbal shisha safer?

No it isn’t. Shisha, herbal or otherwise, usually contains tobacco. Fruit or herbal flavours do not mean the product is healthy. Even if you use tobacco-free shisha, you’re still at risk from the carbon monoxide and any toxins in the coal or charcoal used to burn the shisha.

Second hand smoke is also a worry. If you’re smoking with other people or in a public place and the shisha includes cigarette tobacco, it’s likely you’ll breathe in their second hand smoke too.

Who uses shisha?

Shisha smoking is traditionally used by people from Middle Eastern or Asian community groups but is becoming increasingly popular in cities around the UK and so Africa.

Recent data on shisha shows it’s getting used more widely. Two in five local authorities we surveyed said they’d seen an increase in the number of shisha bars since 2007, with research showing that one in 10 Caucasian people have now tried it.

Ntakirutimana Deus