Shisha session like smoking 100 cigarettes

The state’s Chief Cancer Officer today launched the new campaign ‘Shisha No Thanks’ urging communities to be aware of the harms of smoking shisha, also known as water-pipe.

Cancer Institute NSW chief executive, Professor David Currow said it was important for people to understand smoking shisha is as dangerous to a person’s health as smoking cigarettes.

“A person who smokes shisha is at risk of the same health problems that a person who smokes cigarettes faces, including cancer and respiratory illness,” Prof Currow said.

“A typical 45-minute long waterpipe smoking session involves inhaling as much smoke as 100 cigarettes.

“Even if the shisha does not contain tobacco, it is not safe to smoke. While these products, also called ‘herbal shisha’, may not contain the nicotine in tobacco, the smoke contains highly toxic substances. The addition of fruit flavouring and sweeteners does not reduce the harmful effects of the smoke.”

Smoking remains the largest cause of preventable death and disease in NSW.

The Multicultural Health Service of the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District were awarded a grant by the Cancer Institute NSW to the value of $386,000 last year to lead a community-based project in Sydney, in partnership with the Lebanese Muslim Association, urging shisha smokers to be aware of the harms of shisha.

The initiative has been collaboration with the Sydney and South Western Sydney Local Health Districts, the NSW Multicultural Health Communication Service (MHCS) and the South Eastern Sydney Research Collaboration Hub, University of NSW.

NSW Multicultural Health Communication Service director Lisa Woodland said the project will include a number of strategies aimed at young people, their friends, family and social networks, particularly from the Arabic speaking community, through a social media campaign, information sessions and culturally appropriate community resources and social media and community engagement activities.

“We have co-designed with young people relevant resources including a ‘Shisha No Thanks’ video and a number of factsheets in English and Arabic that will help raise awareness about the health effects of shisha smoking,” added Ms Woodland.

“Tobacco is harmful and addictive no matter how you smoke it. It may seem that that shisha is not as bad for you as cigarettes because the tobacco is flavoured and passed through water, but this simply isn’t true.”

Ahmad Malas, Operations Director of the Lebanese Muslim Association, joined the call for people to avoid all forms of tobacco.

“Contrary to centuries-old perceptions, shisha is just as harmful as cigarettes. The fruity taste only masks the tobacco and does not make it a healthier alternative to cigarettes. Even though shisha has become socially accepted, people don’t need it to have a good time,” Mr Malas said.

People who smoke shisha can get support to quit by calling the Quitline on 13 78 48 or visiting