Hookah or no, smoking isn’t safe

David Forbes' Jan. 13 article, "Despite Ban, Hookah Bar Still Smoking," and the accompanying photo, made smoking a hookah (water pipe) look like fun, exotic and safe. The article is full of double-talk. It says the smoking bar features a nontobacco, tea-based "shisha." Then it says "shisha" is a tobacco product. Tea can be any brewed substance. What is their tea? If it is not tobacco, why would the Department of Health and Human Services be involved in trying to help them find a way to continue their operation? And the last sentence says that they want to continue to serve tobacco.

Smoking a water pipe is not safe. According to a 2005 report by the World Health Organization Study Group on Tobacco Product Regulation, water-pipe tobacco smoking is associated with many of the same risks as cigarette smoking, including cancer, despite popular belief to the contrary. The study group determined that using a water pipe to smoke tobacco poses a serious potential health hazard to smokers, with a typical one-hour-long water-pipe smoking session involving inhaling the volume of smoke that a cigarette smoker inhales consuming 100-200 cigarettes.

Nicotine provides pleasure and reward, but quitting tobacco use is the single healthiest thing a smoker can do. In the U.S., 70 percent of smokers want to quit and 44 percent attempt to quit every year. Unfortunately, only 4 to 7 percent are able to stop smoking on their own. Tobacco dependence is a chronic medical condition and often requires repeated attempts to stop.

With appropriate counseling and medication, 40-60 percent of smokers can quit successfully. Good resources for quitting are the Web sites www.ffsonline.org and www.smokefree.gov. Also helpful is the North Carolina Tobacco Use Quit Line 1-800-QUITNOW. This is the national "quitline" and callers are automatically directed to their local state program.

Hopefully, many smokers will resolve this year to quit and ask for help if needed. This would be good for the individual and help reduce the approximately $97 billion spent on health care each year attributed to smoking cigarettes, cigars, pipes and hookahs.

— Michael Schwartz

Editor's note: Thank you for providing the information on smoking cessation. Regarding the shisha used at the Hookah Bar, we apologize for any confusion, but the article did explain that while shisha is traditionally made of tobacco and other substances, the substance smoked at the Hookah Bar is tea-based and contains no tobacco.

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11 thoughts on “Hookah or no, smoking isn’t safe

  1. Trey

    Wow… smoking is bad? Really? Okay everybody, you read it here… first? Now just quit smoking and all will be right with the world.

    May the schwartz be with you.

  2. Thanks for the health info.

    Smoking bans are a violation of property rights.

    If a person thinks that smoking is bad, use persuasion, not force.

  3. Piffy!

    jeeezus, buddy. so is the sun and cars and hamburgers and tainted spinach and stress and teevee and open-pit mining and clear cuts and nuclear war and depleted uranium and please please please tell me about how bad a little tobacco is just one more TIME!

  4. msontheroad

    I agree with Tim that persuasion is the most helpful way. That is why I wrote the letter to the Xpress.

  5. msontheroad

    I agree with Tim that persuasion is the best way to get people to change. That is why I wrote the letter to the Xpress.

  6. JWTJr

    Lots of things are as bad for you as smoking. Where does it stop?

  7. msontheroad

    Yes, but the point of my letter was to offer resources for those 70% of smokers who want to quit and to inform folks that 1 hour of smoking a water pipe (tobacco) has been estimated to be equivalent to smoking 100-200 cigarettes. This was new information for me when I read it in the World Health Organization study.

  8. Piffy!

    in addition, your implication that people think a hooka isnt tobacco seems kinda nonsensical, and if these ignorant people do indeed exist, i think we can both agree that them dying off might be better for society as a whole.

  9. msontheroad

    1. World Health Organization. TobReg-Advisory Note Waterpipe Tobacco Smoking: Health Effects, Research Needs and Recommended Actions by Regulators. Geneva:World Health Organization:2005

    2. from Xpress Editors note:the substance smoked at the Hookah Bar is tea-based.

  10. Luis de Jerez

    The WHO report is not a study and it was debunked by independent researchers in Europe. Its first two sentences contain serious errors and the experts who wrote it didn’t know that the 30% tobacco/70%molasses product is not burnt (as in cigarettes) but only roasted. The critique adds that this has “tremendous chemical consequences” discarded by those who prepared the report.

    The critique can be found for free on the site of the Harm Reduction Journal:

    TITLE: A Critique of the WHO’s TobReg “Advisory Note” entitled: “Waterpipe Tobacco Smoking: Health Effects, Research Needs and Recommended Actions by Regulators. Journal of Negative Results in Biomedicine 2006 (17 Nov); 5:17.

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