Why the war on Shisha needs to be sustained

On 27th December 2017, the Ministry of Health, through the then Cabinet Secretary Dr Cleopa Mailu, banned shisha. The policy directive that saw the banning of shisha in Kenya read in part:

No person shall import, manufacture, sell, offer for sale, use, advertise, promote or distribute shisha in Kenya

Since the ban, efforts, though scanty, have been made to enforce the ban. It is however clear that the raids and enforcement efforts seem to be working in certain parts of the country than others. For instance, in Nairobi’s Kamukunji sub-county, the county administration has successfully conducted raids and arraigned violators of the ban to court for prosecution. It is reported that over 200 shisha dens have been raided since the ban was in force. Although the ban is still in force, it is reported that violations are still rampant in certain high-end night clubs. Certain influential personalities within government or those connected to powerful politicians, who are said to be behind these high-end clubs, intimidate and frustrate the enforcement efforts.

Effects of shisha

The World Health Organization (WHO) documents that the smoke that emerges from the waterpipe (shisha) contains numerous toxicants known to cause lung cancer, heart disease and other diseases.

Shisha smoking delivers nicotine, which is the usual addictive component of tobacco, thus making those who are addicted less likely to quit. Compared to cigarette smoking, shisha smokers are exposed to more smoke because, in a single session of about an hour, a smoker is exposed to about 200 puffs that is equivalent to smoking 100 cigarettes or more.

Counties role

With the devolved structure of governance, the counties play a critical role in ensuring that the ban is effectively implemented and enforced. Nairobi City County team has faced numerous challenges and intimidation but the team remains steadfast. Through the leadership of the County’s Tobacco Control Unit Head, Mr Anthony Muthemba with the support of the multi-agency team Nairobi has been proactive to this front. Recently, more than 150 shisha equipment were confiscated and fines of more than 1.2 million shillings charged to violators.

It is however important to point out that, each county is mandated to put effective mechanisms to ensure that the ban is implemented. The implementation of the ban must not appear to be a Nairobi County affair while other counties such as Mombasa the vice is being smoked at will. We are therefore appealing to the county governments to step-up and protect the health of Kenyans by implementing the ban effectively.