Friday, November 20, 2009

Emerging Issue: Hookahs

Two Smoking Hookahs by Studio DC
A report from Cairo indicated some of the challenges they are facing as they implement a smoke-free air law.
There is a worldwide trend away from commercial tobacco use, even in countries with a history of traditional tobacco use, like Egypt. In October the city of Cairo banned the sale of shisha, or water pipe (pictured above). Shisha, hookah, water pipe are all names for similar devices. (More details on the pipe)

In 2007, a smoke-free workplaces law was supported by Parliament. However the law lacked clear direction on enforcement and has not been effectively enforced. Egypt like many developing countries struggle with tobacco use. The cultural norms around smoking have not shifted yet in Egypt and other parts of developing nations. 

The health effects of hookah or shisha smoking are not well known. A few quick facts from the CDC show that hookahs are extremely dangerous. 
  • The charcoal used to heat tobacco in the hookah increases the health risks by producing high levels of carbon monoxide, metals, and cancer-causing chemicals.
  • Even after it has passed through water, the smoke produced by a hookah contains high levels of toxic compounds, including carbon monoxide, heavy metals, and cancer-causing chemicals.
  • Hookah tobacco and smoke contain numerous toxic substances known to cause lung,bladder, and oral cancers.
  • Hookah tobacco and smoke contain numerous toxic substances known to cause clogged arteries and heart disease.
  • Sharing a hookah may increase the risk of transmitting tuberculosis, viruses such as herpesor hepatitis, and other illnesses.
  • Secondhand smoke from hookahs poses a serious risk for nonsmokers, particularly because it contains smoke from the tobacco and smoke from the heat source (e.g., charcoal) used in the hookah.
      For full details about the health effects of hookah smoking visit CDC's website

      Wisconsin has dealt with its own issues about hookah smoking. Most recently in the debate about the statewide smoke-free air law, the issue of a hookah exemption was raised. The amendment did not garner the votes to pass either house. Dane County also considered an amendment during the process of making the unincorporated parts of the County smoke-free last year in August. The amendment did not pass the county board either. As we move towards a smoke-free future in this state, hookah smoking will only be permitted outside, like all other smoking. The only exceptions being if an establishment fits the criteria to be a tobacco bar or a tobacco retailer. These exemptions are not intended for hookah lounges necessarily, but are written in such a way that an establishment might be able to squeeze into the definition. For more details or questions about that don't hesitate to contact SmokeFree Wisconsin.

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