Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hookah Smoking Alarms American Health Advocates

Since the hookah (shisha or water pipe) made its debut in North America a few decades ago among immigrant communities, it has continued to gain in popularity and now found its way to hundreds of college campuses all over the continent.

Most of the hookah tobacco used in the United States is imported from the UAE, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia; as a way of catering to Western tastes, tobacco manufacturers are introducing flavors like kiwi, watermelon and blackberry. Handcrafted pipes made of glass and brass are produced in Syria and Egypt, although China is making less expensive pipes out of acrylic. Pipes cost between $50 and $180. In lounges and bars, the tobacco is sold in batches for as little as $5 or as much as $20. One batch can last a person an hour or longer.



Contrary to popular belief that hookah is less harmful than cigarettes, a 2005 study by World Health Organization has concluded that a typical hour-long hookah smoking session does as much harm as 100 cigarettes. This study puts the hookah tobacco merchants in the same category as Philip Morris, often described as a merchant of death. Philip Morris has been heavily promoting to achieve double digit growth in demand for is tobacco products in developing nations such as China, India and Pakistan.

The WHO study also found that the water in hookahs filters out less than 5 percent of the nicotine. Also, hookah smoke contains tar, heavy metals and other cancer-causing chemicals. An additional hazard: the tobacco in hookahs is heated with charcoal, leading to dangerously high levels of carbon monoxide, even for secondary smokers, according to a recent University of Florida study. No surprise, then, that several studies have linked hookah use to many of the same diseases associated with cigarette smoking, like lung, oral and bladder cancer, as well as clogged arteries, heart disease and adverse effects during pregnancy. And because hookahs are meant to be smoked communally — hoses attached to the pipe are passed from one smoker to the next — they have been linked with the spread of tuberculosis, herpes and other infections.

Many young Americans are attracted to the sweet, aromatic and fruity flavors of hookah smoke, which causes them to mistakenly believe it is less harmful than hot, acrid cigarette smoke, according to a report in the New York Times.

Hookah was reportedly invented by a physician, Hakim Abul Fath, in Emperor Akbar's 16th century court in India as a less harmful method of tobacco use. Growing up in South Asia, I saw mostly older people smoking hookah. And they, too, believed the myth that the water filters out much of the harmful components of the tobacco smoke in a hookah. In fact, my grandfather was an avid hookah smoker and lived a healthy life well into his nineties. So did one of my hookah-smoking uncles, while my father, a non-smoker, died at the age of only 69. The American Lung Association, however, is not persuaded by such anecdotal evidence. It is campaigning for hookah bar bans at colleges and in cities across the United States.

“Teens and young adults are initiating tobacco use through these hookahs with the mistaken perception that the products are somehow safer or less harmful than cigarettes,” said Paul G. Billings, a vice president of the American Lung Association. “Clearly that’s not the case.”

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Merchant of Death Eyes Pakistan Market

Health Risks Rise With Bunge in Pakistan

WHO Advisory on Water Pipe

4 comments:

Mohan said...

Smoking has also got some advantages, this is what the new studies suggest. It helps to ease the mental stress in patients with Psychophrenia. Also, it influence the dopamine system in the brain, thus reducing the chance of Parkinson disease.

Mayraj said...

It was used by Americans for drugs before. I gave a decorative one to a Professor once who gave me starnge look. I asked him why and he told me used to smoke pot!

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Business Recorder report on Philip Morris in Pakistan:

Amongst the two multinational tobacco companies in Pakistan, Philip Morris Pakistan Limited (formerly known as Lakson Tobacco) stands at number two to Pakistan Tobacco Company.

Philip Morris Pakistan Limited is a public listed company on the Karachi and Lahore Stock Exchanges and is an affiliate of Philip Morris International Inc (PMI).

The company is involved in the manufacture and sale of cigarettes for Pakistan's domestic market.

It currently operates three cigarette factories with primary and secondary facilities and one tobacco leaf threshing plant, all located in various parts of the country.

It also runs an extensive tobacco leaf agronomy program in the tobacco growing areas of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa.

The company is also involved in CSR where it is engaged in undertaking various initiatives in the education, environmental sustainability and disaster relief sectors to give back to the community it operates in.

Brand Portfolio Philip Morris Pakistan has a portfolio of ten brands for the domestic market.

Of the main ones, it markets and sells both international brands like Marlboro and Red & White, and locally owned brands like Morven Gold, Diplomat, K2.

Highlights 2011 has been a challenging year for Philip Morris so far like the rest of the FMCGs due to the weakening economic situation fuelled by power crisis and rising inflation.

Moreover, the performance of the company is highly affected by the illicit cigarette market that accounts for almost a 20 to 25 percent market share.

The detrimental impact of the non-tax paid industry extends to not only the company but to the legitimate industry as a whole and also the government as it reduces government revenue.

Being a cigarette manufacturer and importer, the company has high taxes and duties expenditure.

The company's sales tax and excise duty as a percentage of its gross turnover for the 9MCY11 stood at a little above 61 percent as compared to 60 percent same period CY10.

The company saw weaker sales of 2,847 million cigarettes mainly attributed to the adverse impact of the non-tax paid tobacco industry.

Overall, compared to 9MCY10, the nine months ending September CY11 has shown declined profitability.

Its contribution to the national exchequer went down from 16,330 for 9MCY10 to 16,178 million for 9MCY11.

The company faces tough competition from not only the unaccounted for sector but also its peer and the biggest rival in the industry, Pakistan Tobacco Company, an associate of British American Tobacco Company

Profitability Gross turnover experienced a decline of 3.9 percent from Rs 25.7 billion for 9MCY10 to Rs 24.7 billion in 9MCY11.

The decline in gross revenue is not only due to the tough economic environment, high government taxes and illicit trade but also due to the successful launch by PTC of its brand, Capstan which alone has a market share of 14 percent.

Though the sales tax and excise duty were considerably less for the nine months CY11, the gross profit was seriously injured by a surge in the cost of sales by 9.8 percent for the 9MCY11 compared to the same period CY10.

This is mainly because of rising energy costs, security related expenses and high inflation.

GP margins had a steep decline to 23.7 percent for the 9 months of 2011 compared to 35.5 percent for same period CY10.

As if to compensate to some extent, the distribution and marketing expenses demonstrated a fall of approximately 12 percent for periods in comparison.

The company recorded a loss after tax of Rs 284 million with an NP margin of -2.8 percent compared to the profit after tax Rs 767 million for the same period in 2010.

This was primarily due to an increase in the finance costs by approximately 270 percent.....


http://www.brecorder.com/component/news/single/592/0/1260461/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Washington Post story on section 144 calling it a "catch-all" law:

A gathering of young people in a hookah bar, an annual kite-flying festival heralding the arrival of spring, and an outbreak of deadly sectarian violence. These three scenarios share an unlikely nexus: They have all been declared subject to a catch-all law that allows Pakistani authorities to restore “public order.”

Headlines saying “Section 144 Imposed” turn up frequently in the local press, referencing the part of Pakistan’s Code of Criminal Procedure that allows the government to act immediately to halt any activity that poses a threat to health, safety or public order.

Last week, Section 144 was imposed when sectarian violence broke out between majority Sunni and minority Shia Muslims in Gilgit in the north of the country after an attacker lobbed a hand grenade and then opened fire on a group of protesters. Shia-Sunni tensions have been running high in the Gilgit-Baltistan region since February, when Sunni gunmen ambushed a Gilgit-bound bus, ordered 18 Shia passengers to get off and shot them dead by the side of the road.

But the law has also been used in less obvious circumstances. The Supreme Court cited Section 144 when it banned kite flying after multiple reported injuries and deaths caused by the razor-sharp metal strings favored by kite enthusiasts. Metal strings are coated with chemicals and then covered by shards of glass to get an edge in kite-flying competitions. But they also pose a serious risk of injury to spectators and motorists.

Beginning April 1 in Karachi, Section 144 is being imposed as part of a government crackdown on the smoking of hookah pipes, a trend that has become increasingly popular with young people in the region. Full color advertisements in local newspapers featuring photographs of young men and women blowing sinister clouds of deadly tobacco smoke warn that violators of the no-smoking order risk “six months vigorous imprisonment.” The ads urge citizens to call the listed telephone numbers immediately to inform authorities if they see hookahs being used in hotels or restaurants.

The section can even be invoked in efforts to limit political activities: A petitioner in a court case next week in Lahore is asking a judge to rule that a march by the country’s opposition party violated Section 144.

The regulation is a holdover from the days of colonial rule when the British implemented a version of the law in India to inhibit public gatherings among Indian inhabitants. The law has since found its way into the penal code of Pakistan and its reach has expanded to include not only public assembly but also other activities.

Pakistani international law expert Ahmar Bilal Soofi said Section 144 is correctly used when there is imminent danger or apprehension of civil unrest. “People have the right to protest and have peaceful assembly, but the moment the protest in no longer peaceful or there is damage to property, [the use of the law] could become reasonable.”

But the law can also be applied inappropriately, he added — as in the context of kite flying. The Supreme Court recently lifted the kite-flying ban, at least partially, to allow revelers to fly kites during the springtime festival of Basant — but only if they do not use the hazardous glass-coated twines.

Not all invocations of Section 144 conform to the constitution, according to Soofi.

“It makes sense to use it to restore a law and order situation. But I think it can also be used in ways it was not meant to be used,” he said. “Whether or not it is used appropriately is a question of fact"


http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/in-pakistan-government-takes-license-with-public-order-law/2012/04/10/gIQAZCA77S_story.html