Smoking a hookah for half an hour is equivalent to inhaling nicotine of 50 cigarettes.
A recent study conducted by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) showed that the flavour used in hookah contained about 0.05 per cent nicotine and tar.
The BMC findings corroborated a study by World Health Organisation in 2005 on hookah consumption, which said that hookah tobacco and smoke contain numerous toxicants that may cause lung cancer, heart disease, and several other ailments, said BMC Executive Health Officer Jairaj Thanekar. He warned Mumbaiites against the rising ‘menace’ of hookah parlours.
“Though the level of nicotine is negligible compared to a cigarette, hookah is more harmful as it creates a false impression of safety in people. People think there is no tobacco in it and continue smoking for 30 minutes to an hour. This exposes the hookah smoker to a much higher level of nicotine than one cigarette,” said Thanekar. He claimed it was a myth that smoking with a filter was safe.
“People think the filter takes away bad products but it is not true,” said Dr Surendra Shastri, head of preventive oncology, Tata Memorial Hospital.
A study conducted during March-April by Healis Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health found that the air quality in a hookah bar was worse than a dumping ground. While noting that the air quality surpassed the limit considered hazardous to public health by leaps and bounds, it also noted that 75 per cent hookah bars didn’t implement the smoking ban.
“The hookah parlours have amount of particulate matter in the air much beyond the safety levels. But at least non-smokers shouldn’t be exposed which is what the smoking ban ensures. But hookah bars have the worst compliance compared to other eateries,” said Dr P.C. Gupta, director, Healis.
The smoking ban says, hookah parlours can serve hookah only in a closed enclosure that has separate ventilation from the non-smoking zone. Besides, no food should be served in the enclosure where hookah is served, to protect health of workers.
“Though we are trying our best to convince hoteliers to co-operate, it is difficult as it means loss of business. If hotels get too tough, customers go to places where ban isn’t taken seriously,” said Narayan Alva, president, Association of Hotels and Restaurants of Mumbai.