I applaud the Health Ministry for banning shisha. For my readers who might not know what shisha is, let me explain. Shisha is a type of “water pipe smoking” whose system includes a water bowl and a hose (or pipe).
This is how shisha works: the flavoured tobacco is placed on the water bowl’s head and charcoal is then placed on top to burn the scented tobacco.
The smoke then passes down to the water pipe, into the water bowl and up the pipe into the smoker’s mouth. Exciting and sophisticated as it may seem, shisha is one of the biggest curses of my generation.
If you think that cigarette smoking is harmful to your health, then you haven’t tried shisha. A report by the World Health Organisation states that the water pipe has so many toxic substances that cause lung cancer and heart disease.
While cigarette smoking yields about 0.5 to 0.6 litres of smoke over a period of, say, seven minutes of smoking, shisha lasts between 30 minutes to 80 minutes and yields close to a litre of smoke per session. WHO likens one session of shisha smoking to smoking 100 or more cigarettes at once.
Now, imagine a young, shisha-loving Kenyan, who indulges in two sessions of shisha per weekend. That is almost eight shisha smoking sessions a month.
Going by the WHO report, that is about 800 cigarettes a month. And that’s just the average shisha smoker, we have not talked about addicts.
I don’t want to even think about what four or five years of shisha smoking can do to the lungs of the average twenty-something-year-old. I have a deep and sad feeling that we will be seeing the results in the next 15 years when these young smokers will be in their forties, with children to raise, mortgages to pay and lung cancer to deal with.
Today, I want to challenge the government. The next ban should be on betting.
There are two things eating Kenyan youth, nay, three things. The first was shisha, which has been dealt with. The second is social media addiction, which is a serious enough problem. The third, and the most fatal, is betting. Shisha was popular among the young women and a governor from the Coast.
Betting is common among young Kenyan men. We have saved the “girl child”. It is time to save young Kenyan men.
Kenya has become a betting nation. Betting has become so rampant that it is among the top expenditures of the average young man. Football season or not, betting is Kenya’s biggest industry, minting billions of shillings, if not trillions, annually. It has become so big that new betting companies are springing up every day, promising better returns.
While there is no empirical evidence on the ramifications of betting among the youth, anecdotal evidence suggests that men are spending whatever little they earn on betting, some even committing suicide when they fail to win.
The sad news is that the only beneficiaries are the betting companies. Many young men, with little purchasing power, are using the little they earn on betting, wrongly thinking that they are making “investments”.
While shisha smoking is a health issue, betting is a moral one. It is an issue of reaping where one has not sowed (for both the gambler and the betting companies).
We are raising a generation of young men who are eating where they have not planted, abandoning values of hard work and diligence in the hope of quick gains.
This is not the future of Kenya. We do not want a generation of young men who will gamble away rent, school fees and money meant to feed their families. Yet, this is where we are headed, and only the government can save the youth.
This is why it needs to do something drastic. If this government is serious about youth, especially young men, then by this time next year, betting companies should be gone.
Let 2018 be the year that Kenya bans betting.