Amid efforts to discourage people in Qatar from smoking, healthcare officials are now reportedly expressing concerns about the rising popularity of shisha among women in the country.
Once considered a cultural taboo, hookah is now becoming more fashionable among females, said Dr. Amina Al Hail, a psychologist with the Supreme Education Council (SEC). Some women also smoke shisha for stress relief, she added.
While specific statistics on the prevalence of shisha use are reportedly not kept, HMC has previously said that 37 percent of Qatar residents above the age of 15 smoke some form of tobacco.
According to the Peninsula, more hookah cafes in Qatar are setting aside space especially for female customers, and more women are seeking treatment at Hamad Medical Corp.’s smoking cessation clinics to break their addiction to the shisha habit.
Speaking to the newspaper this week, HMC psychiatrist Dr. Taher Shaltout said that another factor that motivates women – as it does men – is the perception that shisha smoking is safer than cigarette smoking.
However, health officials say this notion is incorrect, and that one session of shisha smoking can have the health repercussions of puffing through a pack of cigarettes.
Though the harmful effects of cigarette smoking are well-documented, information on the long-term health impact of only huffing on a hookah has been harder to come by.
To address this gap, HMC last year began conducting research into how the popular regional pastime affects heart, blood vessels and the respiratory system.
Over the last several months, doctors have been interviewing individuals who have smoked shisha daily for the past decade, but have never smoked cigarettes.
Though the results of the study have yet to be published, Dr. Ahmed Al Mulla of HMC’s smoking cessation clinic warned women that one health repercussion of increased shisha usage could be fertility problems.