понедельник, 10 мая 2010 г.

Rising popularity of `hubble bubble' - aka hookah - worries anti-smoking forces

A new fad is threatening to undercut the hard-fought gains of laws that have placed strict limits on smoking in public, experts say.

The smoking of hookahs — waterpipes evocative of Cairo's Kasbah or a Saharan oasis — is surging in popularity among young adults, research suggests.

And in a number of places, laws aimed to keep bars and restaurants cigarette-free don't ban the aromatic smoke swirling from these exotic waterpipes, which are sometimes known as shisha, narghile or hubble bubble.

"From a public health standpoint, we really do need to nip this in the bud before we've got a hookah lounge on every corner," says Pippa Beck, a policy analyst with the Non-Smokers Rights Association.

Beck notes Ottawa, where she is based, has issued at least 15 licenses to restaurants or bars that offer hookahs.

"It really is a problem, and certainly for young people who otherwise wouldn't smoke cigarettes. They seem to think this isn't a big deal."

A new study on hookah use by young adults in Quebec suggests Beck's assessment is on track. The study was published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

The work, by a team at the University of Montreal that has been studying smoking in Quebec teens for years, shows that about 23 per cent of 871 study participants reported smoking a waterpipe at least once in the previous year.

While most reported smoking hookahs only on rare occasions, about four per cent of the participants said they smoked hookahs at least once a month.

Though anti-smoking laws are making cigarette smokers virtual pariahs, paradoxically hookah smokers can and do indulge in bars and restaurants.

In some cities, clean air laws cover only the smoking of tobacco — which sometimes provides an out for hookah bars that claim they offer tobacco-free product. In other places, exemptions are given to this type of establishment.

"The thing that bothered me about it, actually, is its visibility," says Jennifer O'Loughlin, the senior author of the study.

"In a country that is banning smoking cigarettes in so many public places and smoking is becoming so contrary to the social norms, are we going to let waterpipe replace smoking in terms of visibility?"

The craze isn't just sweeping Canada. Hookah use is on the rise throughout the United States and elsewhere, says Dr. Wasim Maziak, an epidemiologist who studies tobacco addiction at the University of Memphis in Tennessee.

"It's still under the radar currently. But I think there's a kind of major awakening," Maziak says, pointing to the fact that the U.S. National Institutes of Health have started funding research into hookah use.

"This is spreading so fast.... People now understand it's really a major public health threat."

Hookah smoking has been practised for centuries, but was on the wane in the last century, Maziak says. "It used to be old men in the Middle East smoking this raw tobacco."

But in the 1990s, the trend reversed. Maziak puts the change down to the fact that while in days gone by shisha smokers had to prepare their own blends, commercially prepared product became available, in a range of flavours such as apple and even Earl Grey tea.

What goes into it often isn't clear. Beck says some claim to contain no tobacco, but it can be almost impossible to verify that without doing laboratory analyses. Product labelling is either minimal, indecipherable or non-existent.

"Some is labelled, some isn't. It's hard to tell what's in it. The labelling might be in Arabic," she says.

Beck says she knows of some public health units in Ontario that have analyzed some shisha products to see if they actually contains tobacco. Some do, others don't seems to be the conclusion.

But even if there is no tobacco, the practice of drawing smoke into the lungs is not a healthy one, Beck says. O'Loughlin concurs.

"Waterpipe smoke contains harmful constituents — nicotine, carbon monoxide, carcinogens. And it may contain greater amounts of tar and heavy metals, including cobalt, chromium and lead," she says.

"Waterpipe use has in fact been linked to lung cancer, heart disease, infectious disease and pregnancy related complications. So that's a list that would certainly raise my anxiety."

Another thing that worries people watching the trend is the fact that while most North American hookah smokers don't indulge daily, they get a high dose of smoke when they do. A session generally lasts over an hour and people partaking often take many hits off the pipe.

A World Health Organization report on waterpipe smoking in Egypt suggests the smoke exposure in a hookah session there could be equivalent to that of 100 to 200 cigarettes. Maziak says his team has analyzed blood samples taken from waterpipe smokers, finding "very high levels" of nicotine.

Experts worry that people using hookahs don't fully understand the risks, buying into myths that the water in the pipes filter out dangerous components in the smoke.

O'Loughlin says this trend is one to which regulators need to start paying attention.

"Here's a product that is not regulated in Canada or the United States that people are turning to," she says. "And I think at a minimum it warrants monitoring surveillance to make sure that its prevalence doesn't increase over time."

понедельник, 3 мая 2010 г.

Bars usher in smoke-free era

Alyssa Ahlberge, a server at Cheers Neighborhood Grill and Bar, was pleased to be working without having to breath in secondhand smoke thanks to the Ron Davis "Smoke Free Air" Law that took effect Saturday.

The legislation makes Michigan the 38th state to go smoke free, and three members of the Central Michigan District Health Department and a member of the CMD Health Board visited seven Mt. Pleasant establishments Saturday night "to celebrate the Smoke Free Law."

"Tonight, we are not on work time," said Melissa DeRoche, public information officer for the health department. "No one's getting paid. We are doing this because we believe in the Smoke Free Law."

Ahlberge's employer posted "No Smoking" signs at the doors, as the first smoke free night began, but she was concerned that business was down.

"We had people who would smoke up on our bar and people who would come in and eat just at the bar so they can smoke," said Ahlberge. "I have felt a great relief that I don't smell smokie, and I can breathe better when I'm working.

"It's a lot easier, I feel, to work in this environment. But, I'm afraid it may affect business."

DeRoche said the "premise behind the law was to protect people who work in these establishments."

Travis Foster walked in to Freddie's Tavern with a lit cigarette in his hand, and, as he took one step in, realized he was could no longer smoke there.

"I really think it's not fair for all the smokers across the whole United States really, especially in Michigan now," said Foster. "It's unfair for us to be segregated just like certain people not allowed in certain establishments."

Freddie's had no signs posted at their entrances, and wait staff told customers that if they wanted to smoke they had to step out the backdoor to light up.

Gary Welch of Lansing was dining at Freddie's who said he's a smoker and will continue to go to bars.

"You're still going to go to the bar, and you're still going to smoke," said Welch.

Randy Prout of Rosebush stood outside the backdoor of Marty's Bar and Grill with three other patrons who were smoking cigarettes, and said that he felt like he was "committing a crime by smoking."

"It wasn't put to a vote to me, and I'm a registered voter," said Tammy Andrews, who stood with Prout in the alley behind Marty's. "Smoking is not against the law.

"The state of Michigan makes so much money off the tobacco tax and to take that right away from us (is not fair).

"(We want) to be able to come in to our favorite establishment and have a cocktail and unwind after a hard days work and be able to light up a cigarette."

Marty's had the largest "No Smoking" signs of the seven bar establishments visited by health department representatives late Saturday.

Teresa Fuller was out with her mother and sister at Marty's, and she brought her e-cigarette to curb her need to light a cigarette. The e-cigarette does not create smoke, but still contains nicotine.

"It's all vapor, air vapor, you do get a little nicotine with it," said Fuller. "You have to charge it, but you just hit it.

"And you get a nicotine hit. No second hand smoke, so it's a good thing."

Jan Woodcock of Mt. Pleasant went to Rubbles, and she was happy about the Smoke Free Law, and she said she will go out a lot more now that she doesn't have to breathe in "nasty smoke."

"I see a lot of people in (Rubbles)," said Woodcock. "I don't think there's going to be any problem. People have talked about that and I think that's a non-issue."

The Bird Bar and Grill did not have "No Smoking" signs posted, but patron Bob Puddy did not mind standing outside to smoke.

"I think the new law is more of an infringement on businesses than on me," said Puddy. "The next thing on the chopping block will be fast food places. Eating there is worst than smoking."

Billy and Sarah Holey were out celebrating the new law at the Blackstone Bar where more than 15 people sat on benches and stood on the sidewalk to smoke.

It's nice to go out for the evening, and not smell like smoke," said Sarah Holey.

The Green Spot had signs on both entrances, and just after midnight, there were less than two dozen people in the establishment.