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Most U.S. Cities That Prohibit Smoking in Bars Allow Hookah Smoking, Pitt Study Finds

PITTSBURGH, July 25, 2012 – Nearly 90 percent of the largest U.S. cities that prohibit cigarette smoking in bars have exemptions that permit hookah smoking despite the health risks of this increasingly popular form of tobacco consumption, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine that appears in an upcoming issue of the American Journal of Public Health and is available online now.
 
Hookah tobacco smoking is becoming more common in the U.S., especially among college-aged students, but few people are aware of the health risks, said Brian Primack, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of medicine and pediatrics and director of the Program for Research on Media and Health at Pitt’s School of Medicine, who led the study. The World Health Organization found that a hookah smoker may inhale as much smoke during a hookah smoking session as someone would from smoking 100 cigarettes, and studies have suggested secondhand smoke from hookah is also a concern.
 
“There is a growing body of scientific evidence that suggests real health risks associated with hookah tobacco smoking. And although clean air policies have led to a decrease in cigarette smoking in the U.S., there are still few policies that address smoking tobacco through a hookah,” Dr. Primack said.
 
Researchers assessed tobacco-related clean air policies for each of the 100 most populous U.S. cities based on 2010 census data. The policies were part of the US Tobacco Control Laws Database, which is maintained by the California-based American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation.
 
They found that 73 of the 100 largest cities in the U.S. have laws that disallow cigarette smoking in bars. However, 69 of those cities have exemptions that may allow hookah smoking. Many of the policies designed to clean air and discourage tobacco use were enacted before hookah smoking’s popularity.
 
“As hookah smoking grows more widespread, we believe it’s a good idea for lawmakers, health policy officials and others to take a closer look at clean air policies and how they relate to hookah-tobacco smoking, given the health risks,” Dr. Primack said.
 
Collaborators on the study were Mary V. Carroll, B.A., and Michael J. Fine, M.D., M.Sc., both of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Maggie Hopkins, B.A., and Cynthia Hallett, M.P.H., both of the American
Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation; Mitchell Zeller, J.D., of Pinney Associates, Bethesda, Md.; Kathleen Dachille, J.D., of the Francis King Carey School of Law, University of Maryland, Baltimore; Kevin H. Kim, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh School of Education; and Julie M. Donohue, Ph.D., with the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.
 
The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute.

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