At least 14 people have been arrested following a five-day joint operation against shisha smokers carried out by the Ministry of Health, Police and authorities in several bars across Jinja City in Eastern Uganda, DailyExpress understands.
As confirmed by the Health Inspector in Jinja South Division, Mr Kenneth Nandala, the 14 suspects are currently detained at Jinja Central Police Station as investigations into their charges proceed.
“During the joint operation, five shisha pots, shisha pipes and tins of shisha-making ingredients were recovered, which will act as exhibits in Court during the prosecution of those dealing in this illegal business,” Mr Nandala said last week.
Mr Nandala added that the suspects include three bar managers and 11 customers, who were allegedly found smoking shisha.
“The health inspection department which I head went out for inspections in these bars to verify the health standards and shisha pots were found; we advised the management to take them away but they didn’t,” he explained.
Ms Christine Ahimbisibwe, the Programme Officer for the Tobacco Control Programme at the Ministry of Health who led the operations in a surprise attack on bars and lounges said that people continue smoking shisha which was outlawed in the Tobacco Control Act (2015).
“The Tobacco Act banned people from smoking in public, but there was a discovery that people had resorted to Shisha which, too, was banned. Smoking shisha has become increasingly popular with young people yet it poses a huge threat to human health,’’ she said.
The act among others prohibits the importation of shisha products into the country reportedly for its deadly nature to health. An individual who contravenes the law is fined not less than Shs480,000 and or is imprisoned for not less than one year or both.
Corporations that contravene the law are fined not less than Shs20m, withdrawal of their operating licence and other licenses as specified in the law.
According to Ms Ahimbisibwe, the government spent at least Shs1m on each person admitted at Mulago Hospital after contracting cancer resulting from Shisha use; therefore, the crackdown was important to prevent an increase in the number of such patients.
Further justifying the raid, Ms Ahimbisibwe said the government makes efforts to prevent the importation of shisha pots but people have started making them locally.
“Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) has always impounded shisha pots at the border, but people in the country are making them; so, these raids are helping us eliminate their existence,” she said.
One consumer, who survived the raid, said those using shisha don’t harm others, while the after-effects do not interfere with others either; therefore, people should be left to use it.
The Ministry of Health, however, says shisha smokers are at risk of contracting the same diseases suffered by those who smoke “conventional cigarettes”, such as cardiovascular heart diseases, respiratory diseases, cancer, and problems during pregnancy among others.
Shisha is an Egyptian word for “water pipe”, Nargile in Turkish and Syria or hookah in India. Traditionally, it contains cigarette tobacco, so like cigarettes, it contains nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide and heavy metals such as arsenic and lead.
Fruit-flavoured tobacco is burnt on top of lit charcoal and the smoke is then sucked through a pipe.
The British Heart Foundation suggests that an hour-long shisha session can be equivalent to smoking more than 100 cigarettes, while research by the World Health Organisation has shown an average pipe-smoking session of around an hour is equivalent to smoking up to 200 cigarettes.
Additional Reporting by Monitor.co.ug
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