‘Sheesha’ protection by lawmakers!

IN a rather depressing development, Senate Standing Committee on National Health Services on Wednesday turned down a Bill introduced by Senator Muhammad Azam Khan Swati seeking a ban on Sheesha and other injurious substances. The Committee members reportedly opposed the Bill despite the fact that the representatives of ministries of Health, CADD and Law were inclined to pass it.
It was all the more shocking that the Committee did not allow CADD Deputy Director General Health Dr Minhajul Siraj to give a presentation on the hazards of Sheesha and the effects of wood burning for roasting tobacco. This whimsical approach is regrettable as the Committee system is aimed at discussing issues threadbare before finalizing recommendations for the house concerned. The discussions in the Committee also conveyed an impression as if interests of tobacco growers and tobacco industry were dearer to some members than the public health. The plea that Sheesha is not banned elsewhere in the world was worthless as is the claim that zero nicotine Sheesha is available now. Traditionally Sheesha tobacco contains cigarette tobacco, so like cigarettes it contains nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide and heavy metals, such as arsenic and lead. As a result, Sheesha smokers are at risk of the same kinds of diseases as cigarette smokers, such as heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease and problems during pregnancy. According to British Heart Foundation the average Sheesha-smoking session lasts an hour and research has shown that in this time one can inhale the same amount of smoke as from more than 100 cigarettes. People have sent their representatives to Parliament to safeguard their interests and the parliamentarians ought to make decisions on the basis of merit and public interest.

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