Contrarily to article 16 of the Public Health act 2012 (act 851) which prohibits persons under eighteen years of age from buying, selling or been exposed to tobacco products, an investigation by the Daily Express Newspaper has uncovered an alarming development at the La Pleasure Beach resort in Accra where minors as young as 9 and 12 years are engaged in tobacco trade.
These children, some of whom are in primary school overtly sell cigarettes and offer Shisha smoking (water pipe ) services to holiday makers at the popular beach resort , with some going the extra mile of demonstrating how some of these products are used.
Series of visits to the beach by a Daily Express reporter revealed that these minors sell the tobacco products on behalf of some adults for commissions, disregarding the immense health implications.
In the case of the provision of Shisha services by these children, the investigation found that most of them have had a taste of the product which has been described by the World Health Organization (WHO) as hazardous to human health.
In one instance , one of the minors , an 11 years old Kofi ( not his real name ) in an attempt to persuade our reporter to patronise his shisha service for a Ghc 20.00 fee shockingly smoked the substance , erroneously explaining that “ it gives a good feeling.”Checks revealed that the Shisha or hookah smoking is now very common in Ghana, with a lot of Shisha bars dotted in the capital. What is however threatening is the involvement of children in the sales of this addictive substance.
“For any sale I make, I take my commission and if I am lucky I get tips from some customers too, “the obviously naïve pupil said.
Shisha or hookah is the smoking of tobacco, sometimes mixed with fruit through a bowl and hose or tube. A typical Shisha pipe has a head, body, water bowl, and hose in the bottom of the head that allow smoke to pass into the body’s central conduit. Shisha pipes use tobacco sweetened with fruit or molasses sugar, which makes the smoke more aromatic than cigarette smoke.
With this kind of smoking, charcoal is burned in the shisha pipe to heat the tobacco to create the smoke. The smoke passes through the water pipe body, bubbles through the water in the bowl, and is carried through the hose to the smoker to inhale.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in contrast to the wrong notion that it is a safer method of smoking, the volume of smoke inhaled in an hour-long Shisha session is estimated to be the equivalent of smoking between 100 and 200 cigarettes.
A Shisha smoker, according to a 2005 WHO Study Group report on Tobacco Product Regulation report, inhales as much smoke during one session as a cigarette smoker would inhale consuming 100 or more cigarettes”
Shisha is found to contain nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide and heavy metals, meaning smokers are at risk of the same kinds of diseases caused by cigarette smoking including cancers of the mouth, lung, stomach and oesophagus, reduced lung function and decreased fertility.
The American Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there is a high prevalence of hookah use among young persons.
Medical practitioners warn against children smoking, as addiction rate is higher than the addiction rates for marijuana, alcohol, or cocaine.
According to Dr. Maxwell Amo of the Holy Trinity Medical Centre in Accra, Shisha and cigarettes don’t have any differences in relation to the effects both have on the smoker. The effects develops from simple lung infection to lung cancer.
Aside from that, he said other health risk includes the spread of infectious diseases like tuberculosis, herpes, and hepatitis due to the sharing of the same mouthpiece on the Shisha pipe by consumers.
He advised that aside from smoking being a bad habit, it is a high risk danger to human life which affects every part of the human body.
“Chest infections don’t come close to the nicotine effect on the brain which is responsible for the social vices we see in the youth. Smoking is bad and should be avoided, “the Medical Doctor cautioned.
Regarding the sale of cigarettes, even though the Ministry of Heath says the legal minimum age for buying and selling of tobacco is 18 years, the paper witnessed several teenagers busily competing for attention with their adult counterparts.
Interactions with some of them revealed a great knowledge gap on tobacco laws, suggesting the need for tobacco control authorities to raise the awareness.
Per estimates from WHO, the “tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing around 6 million people a year.’’
The sad aspect is that “nearly 80% of the more than 1 billion smokers worldwide live in low- and middle-income countries, where the burden of tobacco related illness and death is heaviest.”