Hookah Usage Faces Increasing Resistance

When it comes to the hookah, or water pipe, legislators and health advocates are taking action against what they call the newest front in the ever-shifting war on tobacco.

Bills that would ban or limit hookah bars have been introduced in California, Connecticut and Oregon, while Boston and Maine have stopped exemptions to their indoor-smoking laws that had allowed hookah bars to operate, The New York Times reported Monday.

A blend of tobacco, molasses and fruit known as shisha is smoked in the glass and metal water pipes, with many users believing the water filters harmful chemicals from the tobacco smoke.

That's a myth, health advocates say.

"Teens and young adults are initiating tobacco use through these hookahs with the mistaken perception that the products are somehow safer or less harmful than cigarettes," Paul G. Billings of the American Lung Association said. "Clearly that's not the case."

Because hookah sessions can last up to an hour, with smokers taking deep breaths, the smoke inhaled can be equal to that of 100 cigarettes or more, a 2005 study by the World Health Organization found.

Hookahs have been a fixture in university dorms and fraternity houses, but many schools have begun to expand their anti-smoking policies to include hookahs, UPI.com reports.

Local governments are also moving to modify anti-smoking laws, many of which had exempted hookah bars as "tobacco specialty shops" because they did not serve food or alcohol.

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