Multiculturalism we all might enjoy, but they won’t let us

Shisha smoking is a bit of multiculturalism we all might enjoy, but Big Government and its minions in councils up and down the country won't let us

Shining light on shisha
David Atherton
On 26 November 2012 15:19

There are more smokers in the UK than you imagine. Around 21 percent of us smoke cigarettes, 6 percent smoke cigars and pipes, and a further three million – or 6 percent – are ’secret smokers’ who look their doctor straight in the eye and claim to be a non-smoker but have a crafty drag when down the pub or on holiday. Put another way, about one in three of us will light up at some time in 2013.

But what has also come to prominence over the last decade or so is the rise of shisha – also known as narghile or hookah smoking. The rise of shisha smoking not only comes from the UK’s British Muslim population but increasingly curious non-Muslim people too. The number of shisha bars being granted licences by councils has risen from 179 in 2007 to 556 in 2012.

Shisha is a form of smoking where charcoal heats up tobacco – or even dried fruit – at the top of a pipe and the smoke is drawn through water to be inhaled through a tube. I have tried and enjoyed shisha myself. The history of Shisha is debatable but it seems that it originated in India – Persia and Turkey lay claim too. Certainly by the time Rodrigo de Jerez, one of Columbus’s sailors, was jailed for seven years by the Spanish Inquisition in 1493 for smoking, the Silk Road traders had a welcoming bar to visit.

You can guarantee that those who know better than us, are not very happy with Britain’s new habit. The British Heart Foundation said that during a “typical hour-long shisha session you can inhale the same amount of smoke as from more than 100 tobacco cigarettes.” Meanwhile, the Guardian quotes the World health Organization  (WHO) and ups the ante: “A typical 1-hour-long hookah smoking session involves inhaling 100–200 times the volume of smoke inhaled from a single cigarette.”

Naturally, shisha smokers must be succumbing to lung cancer in their droves then? Well not really. Approximately 50 percent of Tunisian males, for example, either smoke shisha or cigarettes. The lung cancer rate for UK males is 58.8 per 100,000, Tunisia is 35.2 per 100,000. That could imply that Shisha is far less harmful than cigarettes, not the Armageddon peddled by the WHO and their apologists.

This hypothesis is backed up by one of the world’s most foremost experts Dr. Kamal Chaouachi. The composition and volume of shisha smoke is different to cigarette smoke and because it is drawn through water the worst of the chemicals such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are absorbed.

Benzo(a)pyrene (BAP) is considered to be the major cause of lung cancer. Chaouachi cites the Schultz, Dettbarn, Völkel, and Hahn report rom 2009 where they admit that “The overall quantities of naphthalene, phenanthrene or pyrene metabolites were found slightly increased in the urine of water pipe smokers compared to non-smokers.” That is the amount of chemicals adsorbed is not much different to non-smokers and offers minimal harm.

As implied by Schulz et al, Chaouachi also feels that much of the research cited is what is politely called ‘publication bias.’ This is either where researchers have set out to fabricate the results and conclusions, cherry-picking data, and ignoring research that conflicts or has produced a null result. For example, on oral cancer, Chaouachi says, “What is unfortunately not mentioned in the literature published by antismoking researchers is that, so far, about two dozen studies point in the opposite direction of that of a cancer link.”

The 100x level is based on an unreal and artificial laboratory and the fact that some of the chemicals were not produced by the tobacco but the charcoal itself. Chaouachi adds: “For long decades, independent (from both the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries) researchers, particularly in Asia and Africa, have published excellent and realistic studies which have set the broad framework of what we know today about hookah smoking and health.” 

But, sure enough, nanny knows best.

In Manchester, along the Curry Mile, apparently many of the shisha bars have been allowing smoking inside. In a meeting on November 8th, Council Deputy Leader Jim Battle read the bar owners the riot act and wagged his finger, rather sinisterly saying, “The law is clear and must be complied with. The hope is that there will be compliance with the law from now on. If that’s not forthcoming then it will be enforced by a team made up of the fire service, the police, excise and customs and environmental health.” I guess the ultimate sanction would be to send Rotherham Social Services round to see if any of them voted UKIP.

Fines so far for the bars have reached £20,000 but may I remind you that Nick Hogan was jailed for six months for allowing smoking in his pub. The net effect – as with UK pubs – will be closures; we have lost 12 percent of pubs since the smoking ban came in 2007, unemployment and a valuable local amenity lost. 

The state has interfered in private property rights and the council can’t wait to pull all the levers of its apparatus to show the business people who is in charge.

I would argue the state has no right whatsoever to dictate legal activities on private property. It is particularly galling with a shisha bar, as that product is the sole raison d’être of the given business. If you don’t like smoke, they are easily avoided. The vast majority do not serve alcohol, so little trouble is associated with them. Broadly speaking, they can also serve as a point of supervised, social contact for younger individuals (particularly younger Muslims) who may not have taken to the binge-drinking culture.

This is a bit of multiculturalism we all might enjoy, but they won’t let us.

David Atherton is Chairman of Freedom2Choose, which seeks to protect the informed choices of consenting adults on the issues of smoking. Follow him on Twitter: @DaveAtherton20

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