Kenya bans 'shisha' water-pipe tobacco smoking

A reveller smokes Shisha at a joint in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG
A reveller smokes Shisha at Carnivore grounds, Nairobi, during a Blankets and Wine festival on August 3, 2014 in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Kenya has banned with immediate effect the smoking of water-pipe tobacco, commonly known as shisha.

The country becomes the third in the region, after Tanzania and Rwanda, to impose a ban on shisha smoking in a span of less than two years.

Other countries with similar practices include Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Singapore, Jordan and Pakistan.

The importation, manufacture, sale or distribution of shisha has also been prohibited, through a legal notice by Health Secretary Cleopa Mailu.

"No person shall allow, promote, facilitate or encourage or do anything to allow, promote, facilitate or encourage shisha in Kenya," according to the new regulations to control shisha smoking.

“Any person who contravenes any provisions of these rules [Control of Smoking Shisha Rules, 2017] may, where a penalty has not been expressly provided for under any provision of the Act, be liable to the penalty contemplated under Section 163 of the [Public Health] Act,” says the Special Kenya Gazette notice dated December 28 and signed by Dr Mailu.

Where no penalty is expressly provided for such offence, offenders are “liable to a fine not exceeding Sh50,000, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to both and, if the offence, contravention or default is of a continuing nature, to a further fine not exceeding Sh1, 000 for each day it continues”

Popular among youth

Shisha smoking has become increasingly popular among the youth, and women in Africa, including in Kenya.

Shisha smoking also goes by the terms sheesha, hookah, narghile, qalyân, waterpipe, or hubble bubble smoking. It comes in several flavours including fruit, minty, rich and creamy.

The tobacco is usually mixed with fruit, herbs, or sugar from molasses.

Often, the tube is shared and several people smoke around a table.

World Health Organisation (WHO), in a recent advisory note to regulators, revealed that smoking shisha posed grave health risks.