Published: 11:20, 03 November 2019
| Updated: 12:02, 03 November 2019
Warnings over the dangers of smoking shisha have been issued after more than 80kg of smuggled goods were seized from premises in Kent.
In a joint operation with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), Kent County Council Trading Standards visited 15 premises over a two-month period discovering 85kg of illegal shisha molasses.
Businesses found to be breaking the law received advice on improvements required, with some deciding to stop all shisha activity with immediate effect.
Officers also inspected a number of 'smoking shelters' with many of the cafes visited found to have structures for which no planning permission had been received.
They had created an enclosed smoking environment where more than 50% of the walls were either enclosed or could be enclosed.
In one case premises were closed until the owner was able to make them compliant with smoke-free legislation by removing the roof of the enclosed area.
These premises will now face follow-up inspections to ensure they continue to comply with the law, including for the goods which are taxed at the same rate as tobacco.
The south east has seen a surge in the number of new venues offering shisha, particularly in university towns and coastal locations.
Dr Mohammed Jawad, a Research Fellow at Imperial College London, said that there many misconceptions about shisha that has led to a surge in use among children in UK’s major cities.
He said: “Many people falsely believe that the smoke is filtered by water in the pipe, or that fruit used to flavour shisha molasses somehow makes it less harmful than cigarettes.
"The truth is that all the research done on shisha shows one thing: it is as bad for you as cigarettes.”
Angela Baker, deputy director for health and wellbeing at PHE South East said: “The idea that smoking shisha is safer and not as addictive as smoking cigarettes is completely false.
"People shouldn’t be fooled; research has shown that shisha is linked to exactly the same serious and life- threatening diseases as cigarettes.
"Smoking shisha more than doubles the risk of lung cancer, respiratory illness, low birthweight and gum disease.
“Shisha also has added risks; because the smoke is cooled by passing through water, shisha smokers will often smoke for far longer and deeper than they would a cigarette.
"As a result, after 45 minutes of tobacco or herbal shisha use, expired air carbon monoxide, plasma nicotine and heart rate are substantially increased and these levels are equal to, or higher than exposure when smoking cigarettes.
“There have also been reports of carbon monoxide poisoning from waterpipe use, leading to headaches, dizziness and nausea, which is largely unseen in cigarette-smoking research.
“Shisha is covered by the same laws as other forms of tobacco in the UK, so this means you cannot buy them if you’re under 18 and you cannot smoke them in any enclosed public or work place.
Officer Oliver Jewell said: “Shisha smoking has become more popular among young people in the mistaken belief that it is less harmful than smoking regular cigarettes, due to the exotic flavours and advertising.
“The businesses we visited will receive follow-up inspections to ensure that smoking shelters which pose an increased health risk are modified to comply with the law and that business owners have
managed to obtain a legally supplied, tax-paid source for their shisha products.
"This campaign has been an opportunity for various agencies to share knowledge and work together in order to deal with the issue most effectively.”
“The idea that smoking shisha is safer and not as addictive as smoking cigarettes is completely false..." - Angela Baker
Mike Hill, KCC’s Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services, said: “This project brought together several partners to combine their knowledge and resources to excellent effect.
"The project was co-ordinated locally by Kent Trading Standards bringing together partners including HM Revenue & Customs officers who seized over 80kg of smuggled molasses from the cafes in Kent.”
Anyone looking for help to quit smoking can contact local stop smoking services which offer free, expert support to help you kick the habit.
Or you can call the Smokefree National Helpline for free on 0300 123 1044 (0300 123 1014 minicom) and ask to speak to an interpreter for the language you need.
The helpline is open 9am to 8pm Monday to Friday, and 11am to 4pm on Saturday and Sunday.