Islamabad, Apr 30 : Children below 18 who can't directly buy cigarettes off the shelf, throng the 'Shisha Houses' spread across Islamabad to have a puff or two.
'Shisha' means "flavoured water pipe smoking".
Sale of cigarettes or other tobacco items to youngsters below 18 is banned in Pakistan Various 'Shisha' outlets openly violating the state laws that bar the sale of tobacco to youngsters below the age of 18, can be seen at 'Jinnah Super', 'Melody' and 'F-10' markets.
Shisha offers a mixture of crude types of tobacco fermented with molasses and fruits and the sweet odour of fruits conceals the natural smell of tobacco's tar and nicotine. A large number of school and college students of both genders belonging to under-18 age group hang out the said Shisha houses for smoking as don't face any hurdle here to satiate their desire.
An eyewitness, ACCA student of University College of Islamabad, claimed that he has seen students of class 7th and 8th having Shisha smoking and even drugs in one of such Shisha houses. "Once I went to a Shisha House in Jinnah Super around lunch time and I saw 10 to 15 school girls smoking and enjoying shisha", The Nation quoted him as saying.
A group of teen-agers sitting in a Shisha House said out that their parents were unaware about water pipe smoking habit, "They won't have any objection if they knew", Sehrish, one of the group fellow added.
Moazam, a student of first year and frequent pipe smoker said that shisha smoking was more than a fashion and 'in fact a status symbol for his generation. "It leaves an impression on my friends, I am versatile", he said adding that he used to visit Shisha House twice or thrice a week and he never faced any hurdle.
Meanwhile, social organizations express concern at the afteraffects of shisha smoking, as it could cause diseases like cancer or other ailments. Sahar, an NGO worker, alleged that as the influential people were running Shisha houses therefore the authorities were unable to take an action. People termed the increased use of water pipe smoking among the most vulnerable groups as alarming and urged a complete ban on Shisha houses and smoking.