Shisha- Why Kenyans Should Celebrate the Recent Ban.

shisha smoker



The recent ban of water-pipe tobacco smoking, commonly known as ‘hookah’ or ‘Shisha’ in Kenya, reminds me of my campus days when I was a huge fan of the mint-flavored shisha and a Friday night out was never wrapped up without blowing a few puffs of shisha.

From my girl child experience, smoking shisha was simply a social affair that was used as a masquerade of class and a way to distinguish oneself from low-class cigarette smokers (apparently). Little did we know that the fruit-scented tobacco was only a cover up for drug abuse that was way more detrimental than the ‘low-class’ cigar.

The unexpected ban of shisha comes at a time when several night clubs within the city have been suddenly shut down, apparently for being “nuisance.” However, I have no doubts whatsoever that I’m not the only one asking;

“What happens to the hundreds of people employed in these night clubs and shisha joints?”

“What happens to the owners of these joints who depend on them to put food on the table?”

And wait……”what the hell happens to our Slay Queens of 2018 who still juxtapose themselves as ‘Classy’ by siting at the far corner of the club smoking ‘flavored tobacco?”

Story for another day!


Nevertheless, beloved Kenyans have elicited mixed reactions, ranging from the shisha smokers themselves, to the bar and night club owners, manufacturers as well as politicians. Amongst those opposing the ban is the Minister of Tourism, Najib Balala, who has strongly condemned the ban, terming it as an economic sabotage.

In this post, we take close insight into the good and the ugly faces of banning shisha in a nation where the largest population comprises of the vibrant and vulnerable youth.



Although shisha ban may hurt the Kenyan economy, this will most likely be to a lesser extent than it hurts the health and wellbeing of thousands of youths who are expected to be the pillars of the very economy in a few years to come.

N.B: Health facts stated in this article are in reference to WHO findings from this link;


The Ugly Side..

  1. Loss of jobs – Several youths that have been employed in shisha joints and nights clubs have been negatively affected by the ban and closure of such joints, rendering them jobless.

2.Business owners have been frustrated by the ban and closure of night clubs and shisha joints.

3. The ban has definitely scared away potential investors as well as tourists who boost the Kenyan economy to a significant extent.


The Good Side (Negative effects of Shisha)

  1. Saves the life of young Kenyans since shisha is addictive and dangerous to human health. Shisha has been found to contain traces of opiate, an addictive stimulant which negatively affects the Central Nervous System.

2. Shisha contains cancer causing agents (carcinogens) and tumor promoters such as nicotine, tar and heavy metals. Smoking shisha therefore increases chances of lung cancer, mouth cancer, hepatitis, respiratory diseases such as TB, as well as heart diseases.

3. Water pipe smokers are exposed to more smoke within a short period as compared to cigarette smokers.

4. For expectant women, smoking shisha leads to low birth weight and increases chances of infant mortality.

5. Sharing the water pipe mouthpiece increases chances of transmission of TB and hepatitis.

6. Shisha is not and will never be a safer alternative to cigarette smoking whatsoever. This is because the methods of manufacture are unstandardized and actually not well known. That’s why there is neither proper labeling for its constituents nor for its health effects.

Manufacturers add the fruity flavors as a way of masking the ugly side of shisha and to make it more appealing to the vulnerable youth.

The negative effects obviously outweigh the positive effects!


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  1. 60 minutes of smoking shisha is equal to 100-200 times the volume of smoke inhaled from one cigarette.

2. Tobacco is the leading cause of non-communicable diseases e.g lung cancer, diabetes, heart attack, impotence, stroke, low birth weight and mental disorders in newborns.

3. Tobacco-related illnesses kill more people annually (approximately 6 million) as compared to TB, HIV and Malaria combined (approximately 5 million).


I think the ban of shisha must be a well calculated move because smoking is bound to hurt the future economy more than it may do today.

Our Minister of health must be appreciated for taking it into his own hands to secure the health of young Kenyans, at least to a significant extent, even though it may be difficult to get rid of every other drug considering alcohol is still legal and amongst the preys eating into the fabric of our young boys and girls.

Reference: Water pipe Tobacco Smoking; Health Effects, Research Needs and Recommended Actions by Regulators, WHO Study Group on Tobacco Product Regulation.


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