Browsing 'shisha' News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Jen R/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

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.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Fadhu Clicks/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

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.

Health questions

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.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Shabina S. Khatri / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

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.


Shisha smoking at Khan Faroukh

Chantelle D'mello

Shisha smoking at Khan Farouk

Several restaurants at Katara Cultural Village say their businesses have taken a nosedive following a ban on serving shisha in public areas that management enacted in January.

While two eateries continue offering the service, albeit in a limited fashion, one restaurant has been told to take shisha entirely off the menu.

Since then, “our sales (have been) down by around 40 to 50 percent,” a supervisor at Armenian-Lebanese restaurant Mamig told Doha News today.

The representative added that the new rules were hurting the atmosphere of the restaurants and the area, where young people often go after a busy day to unwind, smoke and chat.

The ban

Late last year, Katara Cultural Village management announced they would be banning shisha smoking in public across its restaurants and cafes for health reasons.

The decision came amid a push from doctors and authorities in Qatar and across the Gulf to limit the public’s consumption of shisha, which is considered by many in the Arab world as a cultural pastime, rather than a bad habit.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Laurence Currie-Clark/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

According to a recent report, smoking rates are on the rise in Qatar. Some 12 percent of the country’s population aged 15 and above said they currently smoke tobacco. That’s up from 10 percent in 2013, the latest Global Adult Tobacco Study found.

Included in that report is what is believed to be the the first available figures on shisha smoking in Qatar. Nearly 3.4 percent of adults said they are current shisha smokers. That includes 4.9 percent of men and 1.6 percent of women.

While some perceive shisha-smoking to be less harmful than cigarettes, studies have shown that’s not the case.

Some health researchers say a shisha smoker will inhale more tobacco than a cigarette smoker in one puff. Doctors in Doha have also said shisha could be 10 times worse than smoking cigarettes.

Restricting shisha

Sukar Pasha's outside area

Noah Scalin/Flickr

Sukar Pasha’s outside area

While shisha has been completely banned in Mamig, other restaurants and cafes in Katara that offer shisha have found ways of continuing to offer it on their menus.

For example, Sukar Pasha Ottoman Lounge has restricted the shisha service to tents set up facing the beach.

But customers have to rent the tent at a high cost, which has driven away some of the restaurant’s regulars.

”Some of the customers find the prices too expensive or the waiting list too long and they head to Khan Farouk,” an employee at the restaurant told Doha News.

Renting a tent ranges from QR500 for a majilis to QR2,000 for a “closed” tent that includes air-conditioning, a television and sofas.

On a more positive note, the employee said that the restaurant has won over some customers who are attracted to the now more child-friendly, “non-shisha” restaurant.

At Khan Farouk Tarab Café, an employee told Doha News that they also are seeing less customers, despite converting the designated family area inside the restaurant into a shisha smoking area.

“We still have a long waiting list of people wanting to sit in the shisha area almost every night and sometimes they get tired and leave,” he said. “Around 80 percent of our customers smoke shisha.”

While smoking cigarettes and shisha in most closed spaces is illegal in Qatar, enforcement of the law is lax, and many people are regularly observed to be smoking inside hotels, malls, restaurants and cafes.

However, the employee at Khan Farouk argued that they are abiding by the law because the room is not a closed area. “There’s a back door to the shisha area, that we keep open to let the smoke out,” he said.

For its part, the Mamig manager said that the restaurant’s request to dedicate a few indoor tables for smoking shisha was denied.

The restaurant used to reserve the upper floor and outside area to smokers only, away from non-smoker customers.

Attempts to ban shisha

For the past several months, authorities have discussed a stricter anti-smoking law, but there appears to have been little tangible progress.

The law, which has been under discussion for several years, would raise fines on shops caught selling tobacco to minors and give malls the power to fine those found smoking on their premises, among other measures.

Meanwhile, attempts to restrict where shisha can be smoked have produced mixed results at best.

Shisha smoking

Andy Hayes/Flickr

Shisha smoking

For example, in 2013, restaurants and cafes in the Souq Waqif were told to stop serving shisha indoors and to divide their outdoor premises into smoking and non-smoking areas.

But the rule was quickly retracted after managers of shisha-serving outlets complained that queues of people were waiting to smoke in the designated section while non-smoking tables remained empty.

Meanwhile, back in Katara, there are no signs that the rules will be eased anytime soon, even though one restauranteur said the operators of the cultural village seem aware of its impact on businesses in the area.

“Some people in management come here to smoke shisha themselves and see firsthand how much our business has gone down, but that has not changed anything,” a Khan Farouq employee said.


Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Adrian Oesch/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Citing health reasons, management at Katara Cultural Village has decided to ban shisha smoking in most places there, starting Jan. 1, 2015, a representative confirmed to Doha News.

The new rule, which was distributed in the form of a letter from management to businesses operating at Katara, means that all eateries currently serving shisha must not do so in public.

Once the ban takes effect, it appears that at least three restaurants at Katara will need to severely restrict their shisha services: Sukar Pasha Ottoman Lounge, Mamig and Khan Farouk Tarab Cafe.

Katara’s decision comes amid a push from doctors and authorities in Qatar and across the Gulf to reduce the public’s consumption of shisha, due to the severe health risks.

The effects of smoking shisha are still under study, but doctors here have said it could be 10 times worse than smoking cigarettes.

Elsewhere in Qatar

Earlier this year, Hamad Medical Corp. (HMC) held its first annual conference on waterpipe smoking research.

At the time, Tawfik A.M. Khoja, the director-general of the GCC Health Ministers’ executive board, said that a public ban on shisha could help reduce the social appeal of engaging in the activity:

“Users tend to smoke with friends in cafes and other public places,” he said. “There should be policies banning the use of shisha in public places, which may help prevent and reduce shisha smoking.”

Omar Chatriwala

Smoking at Souq Waqif

But banning the popular past time in Qatar has been met with resistance.

Last year for example, restaurants and cafes at the popular Souq Waqif were told to stop serving the pipe indoors and to section their outdoor premises into smoking and non-smoking areas. Outlets that failed to do so were supposed to lose their shisha license for at least three months.

But the rule was quickly withdrawn by souq management, after managers of shisha-serving outlets complained that queues of people were waiting to smoke in the designated section while non-smoking tables remained empty.

Katara’s enforcement

At Katara, management at Armenian-Lebanese restaurant Mamig and Egyptian eatery Khan Farouk Tarab told Doha News that they are currently devising ways to obey the new rule, but still supply hookah to customers who ask for it.

A representative of Mamig, however, added that the restaurant’s owners are not that concerned about the new rule:

“We are famous for our excellent cuisine and customers come for our food as well as the option to have shisha.”

The restaurant already has an upper-floor and outside area dedicated to smokers only, away from all non-smoker customers.

Meanwhile, employees at Sukar Pasha Ottoman Lounge said the restaurant would observe the new rule by serving shisha in closed-off areas, away from the public eye.

This will apparently be done by using some 30 tents set-up outside the restaurant, facing the beachfront.

Sukar Pasha's outside area

Noah Scalin/Flickr

Sukar Pasha’s outside area

But to use one, customers would have to reserve a full tent at a cost. Renting a majilis is the cheapest option, at QR500. An open-roofed tent with a sea-view costs QR1,500 and a “closed” tent fit with air-conditioning, a television and sofas costs QR2,000.

Despite Sukar Pasha’s use of beach tents, an employee of the restaurant told Doha News that business may be affected by the public shisha smoking ban:

“We’re not happy with the ban as many of our customers come to us, especially for our custom-made shisha – particularly the Qataris. They then of course order food while enjoying their shisha. Not everybody wants to smoke in a tent and renting them out costs money. All we can do is see what happens.”

While Sukar Pasha insists its new system adheres to Katara management’s new rule, smoking indoors is illegal in Qatar.

However, enforcement of the law is lax, and many people can still regularly be seen smoking cigarettes and shisha inside malls, restaurants and cafes.

Meanwhile, for the past several months, authorities have said that a stricter, anti-smoking law is expected to be passed “soon.”

Will you be affected by the new smoking rules at Katara? Thoughts?