Bengaluru: The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) in its recent monthly meet witnessed a high decibel debate over hookah bars thriving illegally in the city. Corporators, cutting across the party line, have demanded shutting down of 600 such facilities. Now, a member of Karnataka Government High-Power Committee on Tobacco Control has expressed concerns over the thriving Hookah bars and the need of the hour to regulate them in the larger interest of public safety.

In an openletter, Dr Vishal Rao U S, a noted oncologist and member of theCommittee on Tobacco Control, which is set to implement the regulationon tobacco products, has said that Hookah smoking is not safer than cigarettesmoking as Hookah smoke contain numerous toxic substances as well. “Consumptionof hookah in public places such as restaurants is illegal and punishable as perthe sections sec 4,5,6,7 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act(COTPA), 2003. A recent government order from the urban development mandatedthat all cafes, eateries, bars and restaurants should comply with COTPAsections as a part of trade license provided by municipality. Sadly many Hookahbars operating in the city are not in compliance with these rules and the samemakes the license holder liable to suspension or cancellation,” he added.

Hookahbars and the law:

The letterfrom the Oncologist further said that a Karnataka high court order alsomandates the compliance of law at hookah shops. Currently Hookah bars violateall the sections of COTPA mentioned below. As per the COTPA, all the eateriesshould comply with the key sections of COTPA as noted below:

1)SECTION4 - Eateries / restaurants / bars below 30 seats cannot serve hookah. Thosemore than 30 seats can serve hookah provided they have a separate smoking room(as per specifications of COTPA) WHERE no food items can be served and shouldhave a separate ventilation system.

2)SECTION5 - No advertisement should be present at the point of sale promoting hookah

3)SECTION6 (A) & (B) - (A)No sale of hookah within 100 yards of educationalinstitutions (B) prohibition of sale to minors. All places that sell hookahshould display a picture of cancer patient saying - tobacco causes cancer

4)SECTION7 - Hookah products must contain pictorial warnings on them to warn consumersabout harms.

Dr Rao, saysthat BBMP taking cognizance to this matter and acting would be in interest ofpublic health and need of hour to protect youth from addictions. “Support frompolice would further help them implement the rules and strictly enforce thesesections to prevent inappropriate misuse of the law,” he added.

“Hookah is gateway to drugs” Member of the Committee says, “In recent times have witnessed hookah bars in a city proliferating and targeting youngsters. Call it style, coolness or killing boredom for students, this has got the parents concerned, schools alert and teachers upset. Hookah is considered legally under the schedule of COTPA and regulated under this act. In its current state and usage, Hookah is a health hazard and also violates the sections of the COTPA act. It is also a known gateway to drugs for youngsters.” The member further says that Hookah, also known as narghile, shisha and goza, a hookah is a water pipe with a smoke chamber, a bowl, a pipe and a hose. “Hookah smokers may actually inhale more tobacco smoke than cigarette smokers do because of the large volume of smoke they inhale in one smoking session, which can last as long as 60 minutes. Hookah smoke contains high levels of toxic compounds, including tar, carbon monoxide, heavy metals and cancer-causing chemicals (carcinogens). In fact, hookah smokers are exposed to more carbon monoxide and smoke than are cigarette smokers. As with cigarette smoking, hookah smoking is linked to lung and oral cancers, heart disease and other serious illnesses,” he added. Other Health Effects of Hookah Smoke: Hookah tobacco and smoke contain numerous toxic substances known to cause clogged arteries and heart disease. Infectious diseases may be transmitted by sharing a hookah. Babies born to women who smoked one or more water pipes a day during pregnancy have lower birth weights (were at least 3½ ounces less) than babies born to nonsmokers and are at an increased risk for respiratory diseases. Hookahs and Secondhand Smoke: Secondhand smoke from hookahs poses a serious risk for nonsmokers, particularly because it contains smoke not only from the tobacco but also from the heat source (e.g., charcoal) used in the hookah. Using a hookah to smoke tobacco poses a serious potential health hazard to smokers and others exposed to the smoke emitted.

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