The smoke of the tabacco what it was eradicated from many public places returns to some bars. It sneaks in those who have hookahs, also called shishasor water pipes, because they moisten the smoke. The majority of those who use them are young. They are fashionable, but they are not regulated.
Around 30 kids smoke in shisha inside a bar in front of the university campus of Fuenlabrada, a municipality south of Madrid. They drink and chat among smoke. For them smoking is sharing. And the law allows it because what burns in water pipes is not tobacco, but nicotine-free alternatives like shiazo, a mineral soaked in vegetable glycerin that is sold on the Internet with different aromas. That legal gap is that used by some locals to strain tobacco in the hookahs and break the law, according to the Civil Guard, who last year made two operations in Valencia and Malaga in which he found this practice. "And this happens in more locations throughout Spain," acknowledges the sergeant of the armed institute of Malaga Carlos Plaja, who participated in the operation of this Andalusian province in which 124 complaints were filed and 91 inspections were carried out in entertainment venues.
The Civil Guard agents warn that the bars of shishas they mask the consumption of tobacco with aromatic products. "They hide the packages in stools and false ceilings. And when the inspection is done, they show the products of nicotine-free flavors that the law allows to smoke, "comments Carlos Plaja on the phone.
The autonomous communities control sanctions for breaking the anti-smoking law. However, most do not specify if they are imposed by smoking in hookah. The only one that has offered data on this is Catalonia. There, so far in 2018, the Ministry of Health has processed seven complaints.
Seville will host the international waterpipe fair in June. The organizers choose this city because, "the Spanish market is one of the largest in the world, with a significant share of pipes and tobacco," as advertised on the web. These are the main exhibitors listed companies in the United States or Brazil specialized in this type of tobacco for water pipes.
Sources of the Civil Guard of Valencia, where another operation was developed, recognizes that more premises of this type proliferate than agents there are to watch over them. For this reason, the Ministry of Health of Murcia recognizes that "it is necessary to control the market for new products related to snuff," pointing to the hookah.
The problem is that the pipes are not perceived as harmful. The bar of Fuenlabrada has opened just a month ago to take advantage of the pull of this fashion imported from university parties in the United States. "It's a typical plan: beers and hookah," says Víctor, 21, and a student of International Relations at the fuenlabreño campus.
A group of kids is challenged to see who gets to make the best smoke ring. They try to leave a perfect circle floating when they exhale, because the tobacco smoked in shisha it generates a lot of smoke; clouds with which boys and girls have fun and that, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), contains carcinogenic and toxic substances dangerous for the respiratory and cardiovascular system. The agency recalls that the supposed harmlessness of shishas It is false to smoke tobacco or other products in it.
The pulmonologist and president of the Spanish Society of Pulmonology and Thoracic Surgery (SEPAR), Carlos Jiménez Ruiz, warns that flavor products and glycerines, which "are not controlled by Health," can cause fibrosis. In addition, notes that hookah sessions "are equivalent to smoking between 25 and 50 cigarettes."
"Because they sell you fruit, I thought it was healthier," admits Jules, another 20-year-old university student when he is warned of the consequences of smoking in hookah. Doctors are concerned that these are the passport of young people to get to the pack of cigarettes, because according to Jiménez, this fashion normalizes smoking.
The Tobacco Unit of the Spanish Society of Family and Community Medicine warns that every time there are more people who smoke hookah and cigarettes. In addition, he regrets that in Spain there are no data on consumption of shisha. The latest survey of drug use AGES, which is prepared by the Ministry of Health, does not ask for them. And yet it reflects an increase of five points in the number of young smokers.
The PSOE presented in March a non-law proposal to regulate the hookahs and include them in the anti-smoking law. Sources of the socialist group maintain that the minister Maria Luisa Carcedo values to regulate them to throw them of the bars. The same is requested by SEPAR and the WHO, who claim that this device has the same consideration as the electronic cigarette. "These can not be used inside bars and restaurants, because the law considers them a product of tobacco. It is the same consideration that the hookah should have, smoking tobacco, aromatic herbs or glycerin without nicotine in it, "Jiménez ditch.
The Civil Guard sergeant who participated in the Málaga operation, Carlos Plaja, says that "the people who come to these bars to smoke in hookah do not want to consume glycerines or other products without nicotine, they want tobacco". The maasal, fermented with fruit essences, is the most used in the hookahs around the world due to the aromas, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In Spain, the law only allows bars and cafeterias to sell tobacco through machines, something that does not happen in these establishments, says Jesús Martín, legal consultant at Legaltabac, a specialized advice on regulatory standards in the sector. The packets of shisha tobacco They even show false information about the content of nicotine and tar, lowering the actual levels, and not even appear as tobacco in the container, according to the WHO. "There are no methods to validate the content of the products for hookahs," the WHO says in a report. In Spain, the armed institute calls for increased control over this type of tobacco, since "in many cases it comes from contraband." If the authorities show that it has an illegal origin, the sanctions to these establishments suppose a fine of 2,000 euros and the closing of the premises during a week. In Malaga, the Civil Guard inspected 91 premises and denounced 124 infractions. And in Valencia he seized 200 packages of pipe tobacco in various hotel establishments in the city.
However, according to sources of the Civil Guard of Valencia, the fines are lower than the benefit that the bars have to have hookahs. "It is the business of the century. The package of tobacco costs 3 euros and with it three cachimbas are made, which are sold at a price that ranges between 20 and 60 euros each, "he says.
The WHO warns that "due to the low cost of manufacturing the products for shishas and the low tax burdens that are applied to them compared to cigarettes, pipes are affordable. " María Díaz, 20, a student of Audiovisual Communication at the Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid, acknowledges that, in addition to frequenting hookah bars, she has one at home that she uses "even when she studies".
In the United States, a survey revealed that 30.4% of college students had used hookahs at some time, according to the WHO. And in the United Kingdom, between 7% and 11%.