Shisha or hookah smoking has become extremely popular among young people, but there are warnings that poor quality and fake shisha may damage people’s health.
Smoking hookah without restraint may cause addiction
Shisha smoking costs VND150,000-300,000 (USD7.12-14.4), reaching a surprisingly high VND3 million (USD144) per month if people really indulge. To attract customers, many cheap shisha cafes advertise on the internet.
"Shisha heaven" which was advertised at Sai Gon University is a small place in an alley, filled with smoke.
Cheap shisha lounges have gained a reputation is a perfect hideout for heroin addicts. A customer said they once saw a man smoke shisha while injecting heroin. But some lounges even offer the heroin as part of the main ingredients.
Thuy Ngan, a student at Ton Duc Thang University shared, "Going to cheap shisha cafe is really dangerous. There is one time when I was feeling really down so I decided to go to smoke shisha alone. I fell asleep after just a few inhales and when I woke up, my purse and phone were gone. I'm just glad no one touched me."
Shisha laced with sleeping pills is a quite common trap to rob smokers.
On the way to the cheap shisha area in Binh Chanh District, HCMC, a hookah pipe costs just VND100-150,000 (USD4.8-7.12) while the cheapest price for a genuine pipe in the city is VND900,000 (USD43).
These instruments skimp on important details, including the air release valve. The bowl which will contain coals and tobacco is not made of clay or marble but of plastic.
Thanh Hang, a former shisha lover said, "I bought a hookah at a cheap local market but after several uses my head and throat ached. The doctor said I was poisoned because the plastic bowl melted from the heat. I haven't smoke shisha since."
Shisha is not a banned item so buying it is quite easy. The shops in Hai Thuong Lan Ong Street offer the cheapest shisha tobacco made in China and Thailand to the most expensive exported from Arab countries. However a bag here only cost VND50-90,000 (USD2.4-4.3) while a genuine one cost around VND150-350,000 (USD7.12-16.7).
A shisha trader in Binh Chanh said the cheap shisha is filled with flavoured powder from China. Some traders even mix white stone powder in to make the shisha heavier.
To attract customers and diversify the flavours, many shops have replaced water with wine to heighten the effects despite the health risks. During long sessions, the smoker of these kind of shisha can be burnt by the alcohol or suffer severe allergies.
Substandard hookah pipes are bad for a smokers' health
Cheap shisha tobacco contains fake ingredients