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.