Letter: Hookah smoking is hardly safe

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Friday, November 30, 2012 | Shusmita Khan, Albany, Fellow, Community Solutions Program, U.S. State Department | Categories:
Just before Thanksgiving, a friend sent me the story about a Hookah lounge opening in Saratoga Springs ("Hookah lounge to open in Saratoga spa," Nov. 21). It took away some of my holiday spirits. In my country — Bangladesh — where Hookah is a part of the culture, we are trying to undo that aspect of the culture. Yet, here in the United States, this is becoming a fashion statement. Hookah smoking is not safer than cigarette smoking. Hookah smoking is associated with the same hazards — including lung cancer, respiratory disease and low birth weight in babies. In addition, the combination of charcoal and tobacco, which is unique to hookah smoking, makes it even more dangerous, because the charcoal has its own set of health effects. Also, sharing mouthpieces, or pipes that aren't cleaned properly, can risk the spread of infectious diseases like tuberculosis, herpes, influenza and hepatitis. A 2011 review cited in the American Lung Association's "Hookah smoking" report suggests hookah use may "represent the second global tobacco epidemic since the cigarette." That Lung Association report also cites a figure that two-thirds of states have hookah bars and cafes and a majority of these establishments are located near college campuses. Students can purchase pipes and accessories online. Laws prohibiting the sale of hookah tobacco and its smoking paraphernalia to minors should be implemented and enforced. This may not seem important now but, in the long run, it will affect everyone.
Times Union
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