Ad Campaign Touts the Dangers of Hookah Smoking

LAS VEGAS - Hookah has been around for centuries. This ancient form of Mediterranean tobacco, however, has found new life in Las Vegas.

The popular craze is sparking concern for health advocates. A campaign by Smoke Free Vegas warns of the health dangers from hookah smoke.

"It's a sexy kind of activity for many people," said Maria Azzarelli, Senior Health Educator for the Southern Nevada Health District's Tobacco Control Program. "There's a mystique to it, so all of that lends itself to more use by that young adult population."

Health District officials say they are alarmed hookah has become a fashionable and glamorous social activity.

"What we're finding is a lot of people that don't smoke cigarettes smoke hookah, because they think it's safe," said Malcolm Ahlo, Health Educator for the SNHD's Tobacco Control Program.

"Hookah is not a safe alternative to cigarettes," Azzarelli said.

According to the campaign ads, during a typical one-hour hookah session, a person inhales as much smoke as 100 cigarettes. That equates to five packs in one hour.

Paymon's Mediterranean Café and Hookah Lounge Corporate General Manager Jeff Ecker is fuming over these public service announcements.

"What they're saying is deceiving," he said. "Nobody smokes a hookah for an hour. When you sit down, a hookah lasts generally for 30 minutes. You have six people around the table. By the time that hookah gets passed around, you're lucky to get ten or eleven puffs."

Health officials point to research by the American Lung Association, Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization.

"Because there are all these chemicals in hookah, it does cause oral cancer, lung cancer, stomach cancer, heart disease," Ahlo said.

Ecker says smoking hookah does not pose the same threat as smoking cigarettes. "When somebody goes on a ten-minute employee break, they're not going to whip out a hookah to smoke. If somebody needs a fix of nicotine from a cigarette, and you ask them to go ahead and just smoke the hookah, they'll laugh at you," he said.

The Health District isn't laughing until it snuffs out smoking, hookah included.

Ecker does agree with the health district on one point. He calls cigarettes a "horrible habit".


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