Rwanda joins Tanzania, Kenya to ban use and importation of shisha tobacco

Woman smoking at a shisha bar — Photo Credit:

Rwanda has banned the use, advertisement and importation of shisha tobacco also referred to as shisha, hookah or waterpipe which is very popular among the youth in the country.

The ban which took effect on Friday was announced by the Minister for Health, Dr Diane Gashumba who said the decision follows the World Health Organisation’s concern about its health effects, reports local media portal The New Times.

The minister added that failure to comply with the ban will attract legal sanctions.

Kenya and Tanzania have already banned the smoking of shisha tobacco in public places.

The WHO stated in a 2015 advisory note that the effect of shisha tobacco on the body is more harmful than cigarettes.

“All the studies to date indicate that, during a typical waterpipe use session, the user will draw large doses of toxicants (ranging from less than one to tens of cigarette equivalents). These toxicants have been linked to addiction, heart and lung diseases, and cancer in cigarette smokers and can result in similar outcomes in waterpipe users if these toxicants are absorbed in the body in appreciable amounts,” the reported stated.

It also noted other effects such as the intake of toxicants, acute psychological and health effects which can affect second-hand smokers as well.

“In summary, all the evidence, from studies of molecules to studies of human populations, converges towards the conclusion that waterpipe tobacco smoking causes diseases that are commonly associated with cigarette smoking, including addiction … In light of the widespread, growing use of waterpipes worldwide, firm action is necessary and justified to protect public health,” the report concluded.

The smoking of shisha tobacco is widespread in Africa as shisha bars are springing up in major cities. There is little regulation and according to the WHO research, high school students in South Africa have been caught up in the smoking of the Middle Eastern product.

This article by Ismail Akwei was first published on

Published by Ismail Akwei

Ismail Akwei is an international journalist, digital media and communications professional, editor, writer, arts, culture and tourism advocate, human rights activist, pan-Africanist, tech enthusiast and history buff. He has worked with multinational media companies across Africa and has over a decade’s experience in journalism.

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