ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Local authorities in the Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava) town of Kobani and its surrounding areas on Saturday banned the sale of hookah pipes, cigarettes, and alcohol to underage after a video report from Kurdistan 24 which showed youth smoking in public.
A phenomenon that has become a norm in the region, children can be found smoking hookah (commonly known as shisha) in every street and cafeteria in Kobani.
Kurdistan 24 visited parks and cafeterias in Kobani last week to explore the issue of underage smoking.
In between pulls from a hookah pipe, 12-year-old Selim suggested the best time to smoke shisha was during the cool weather at a park or cafeteria.
“You cannot smoke shisha in the noon, it doesn’t feel good,” he told Kurdistan 24.
Youth like Selim between the ages of 7 to 17 regularly visit cafeterias and bars and can order hookah just like adults. Hookah usually costs 500 to 600 Syrian pounds, the equivalent to approximately one US dollar. According to Selim, he works to make money to pay for shisha.
The 12-year-old told Kurdistan 24 that children around his age are used to smoking despite the health risks. “When you first start, you get dizzy, but now we are used to it,” he said.
On Sunday, the North Press Agency (NPA) reported that the Municipalities Board of the Euphrates Region had enforced a ban on hookah a day prior.
The Euphrates region includes Kobani, Ain al-Issa, and Tal Abyad and is one of the seven areas of the autonomous administration in northeast Syria.
Speaking to Kurdistan 24, a schoolteacher blamed the lack of attention from children’s parents and also a lack of proper education at schools for the rise in underage smoking.
“Before everything, the parents must take care of their children, to know where they are going and what they are doing,” Nesrin Haji Ali, who teaches at a local school in Kobani, stated.
“Parents must know where the money they give to their children is being spent.”
Ali also called on public places like cafeterias or parks to enforce specific regulations and not to sell cigarettes or hookah to underage individuals.
According to the US government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking tobacco through a hookah pipe carries many of the same health risks associated with cigarettes. Hookah causes more damage to smokers as they absorb more of the toxic substances also found in cigarettes.
An hour-long hookah smoking session usually involves 200 puffs, while smoking an average cigarette takes about 20.
The local Kurdish-led authorities have now instructed the owners of shops, cafés, and hookah sellers in parks and restaurants not to sell alcohol, hookah, or cigarettes to underage children.
Owners who violate the rules could be fined up to USD 200 and have their licenses revoked.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany
(Additional reporting by Redwan Bezar)