Aussie health groups aim to clamp down on shisha smoking

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A coalition of public health groups is working to close a loophole in legislation that allows the smoking of waterpipes in enclosed areas.

A collection of health groups, including the Heart Foundation and the Cancer Council of Australia, is working to close a loophole in Victorian legislation that allows people to smoke waterpipes in enclosed areas.

Current state laws mean people can't smoke a cigarette or tobacco inside restaurants, cafes and in some al-fresco areas.

But legislation fails to identify tobacco that's smoked from a waterpipe, also known as a hookah or shisha, as a 'tobacco product'.

The Australian Lebanese Medical Association has teamed up with the Cancer Council of Victoria, Quit Victoria and the Heart Foundation and has recommended the state government make changes to legislation.

“Since 1 March, 2006, smoking has been banned in enclosed workplaces (including restaurants and bars) in Victoria. Despite this, waterpipe tobacco continues to be smoked indoors at shisha cafes as the Act’s definition of ‘tobacco product’ fails to include waterpipe tobacco,” ALMA president Dr Walid Ahmar said.
 
“It is unacceptable to continue to expose staff and customers to this risk because of legislative oversight.”

Smoking a waterpipe indoors is prohibited in all other states.

Waterpipe tobacco contains nicotine and has also been associated with carbon monoxide poisoning.

Quit Victoria says waterpipe smoke contains many of the same toxins as cigarette smoke, which can cause cardiovascular disease and cancer.

An average daily waterpipe user would inhale the same amount of nicotine contained in 10 cigarettes, research from Quit Victoria has found.

Rashid Freihat, the manager of a shisha cafe in Melbourne, says waterpipe smoking is a recreational and cultural activity.

He fears banning it from indoor use would hit his bottom line.
 
“That would shut me down,” he says. “It’s inevitable. The shisha side of things is the bulk of our trade.”
 
“People come here rather than going out and getting drunk.”

 

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