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Time to get unhooked on hookah pipes

Friday 14 November, 2014 by Karl

So, just what is a hookah pipe I hear you asking?

Also known as a waterpipe or ‘shisha', it is an instrument for vaporising and smoking flavoured tobacco called shisha, in which the vapour or smoke is passed through a water basin before inhalation.

Take a walk down Sydney Road in Brunswick and you will see a number of shisha bars and cafes, establishments in which you can smoke hookah pipes, including indoors.

Used by individuals or groups of people coming together to smoke, relax and share in conversation, hookah pipes have a strong social and cultural aspect to them.

Nothing wrong there then, particularly as many hookah pipe users and devotees believe it to be less harmful than smoking a cigarette.

Unfortunately, this is a view that couldn't be more wrong.

Smoke from a hookah pipe contains many of the same toxins as cigarette smoke including carbon monoxide, nicotine and heavy metals that cause cardiovascular disease, lung disease, cancer and addiction.

What's worse is that smoking a hookah pipe indoors contributes to the build-up of toxic levels of indoor second-hand smoke pollution.

So, imagine if you will a group of people in an enclosed space all puffing away on an instrument that produces on average, more toxic pollutants than a cigarette!

This is possible in Victoria (unlike all other states and territories) because of a loophole in the state's Tobacco Act that allows hookah pipes to be smoked in cafes and bars etc, while smoking in all other enclosed workplaces is banned.

Recently, a coalition of Victorian public health groups stepped up their campaign to have this ban extended to include hookah pipes, to ensure the equitable treatment of all venues and most importantly, the health and well-being of staff and patrons.

Let me be clear though, I don't advocate banning hookah pipes or closing down the venues in which they're available.

Adults are free to smoke if they so choose, however this should not occur in a manner that exposes others i.e. staff and patrons to potential health harms from second-hand smoke.

If exposure to second-hand smoke is deemed enough of a concern to ban smoking in all other workplaces, then you have to ask why shisha bars and cafes would be treated any differently.

After all, don't we breathe the same air?

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