By Assunta Ng
The first time I heard about hookah bars two years ago, I was completely repelled.
“Hooker” was what I heard. You can imagine why I didn’t want to continue the conversation with anyone mentioning the word.
Go ahead, you can laugh at me. My editor certainly did. I didn’t know anything about hookah bars until Donnie Chin’s murder, and many had shared the same sentiments. Chin was shot and killed near Chinatown’s Kings Hookah Bar. Lately, this subject comes up more often than I want, especially after Mayor Ed Murray’s decision to shut down those lounges, which angers many African Americans and those who share in the smoking tradition.
Those protesters at the City Hall on Aug. 10 probably carry this mentality: How dare a white mayor try to enact this possible new ordinance without considering and consulting the African American community! The fact is, the mayor did. The older East African immigrants supported the mayor’s thinking, but the younger crowd holds a different opinion. It’s trendy to smoke there, and it offers a place to hang out. Some younger people depict hookah as cool.
Many who testified at the City Council’s meeting on Aug. 10, easily threw out the race card, accusing Murray of racism.
Some perceive that the mayor is unfair—he favors the Asian community over the African community—he did it for Chin, an Asian American. That interpretation of Murray’s action is short sighted and absurd: Why is it one community’s loss is viewed as another community’s gain?
Our relationship with other ethnic groups is often complicated with rivalry, ambivalence, and misunderstanding. Although we try to build bridges with other ethnic groups, I am sorry that we still have a long way to go. Have our African American brothers forgotten, that we too have suffered from racism?
Is the mayor being unfair to close all the bars instead of just the ones in the ID?
Not if he thinks of the big picture for the City! Not if he knows a lot more than the general public, while not at liberty to tell everything! Not if the enforcement of the statewide smoking ban law is being challenged in hookah lounges! The mayor would definitely be unfair if he allows a double standard in the city, letting some lounges continue the smoking practice and others can’t!
Murray simply seized Chin’s tragedy as an opportunity for change. He didn’t just hear of hookah lounges since Chin’s death.
At the press conference on Aug. 3, he told us that he was frustrated that he couldn’t do anything about it last year when another homicide occurred near another hookah bar.
So far, Murray has presented the illegal aspects of hookah bars in a united front with City Attorney Peter Holmes, Seattle City Council members Bruce Harrell, John Okamoto and other council members, and also the King County Health officials.
It shows Murray’s leadership and collaboration in finding solutions. Also, he promised to increase youth jobs from 2,000 to 4,000 to prevent idle youths from getting into trouble.
What the city didn’t mention is the effects of hookah smoking! A reader alerts us to look into hookah smoking’s impact on health. Had you known the risks, you might not think that it’s cool to patronize hookah bars any more.
According to a 2005 World Health Organization report, hookah smoking is more harmful than smoking a cigarette. A hookah session can last as long as an hour, and smokers usually taking long, deep breaths. The King County Health Department web site said, “An hour-long hookah smoking session involves 200 puffs, while smoking an average cigarette involves 20 puffs.
“The amount of smoke inhaled during a typical hookah session is about 90,000 milliliters (ml), compared with 500–600 ml inhaled when smoking a cigarette.”
A single hookah session exposes users to more carbon dioxide and PAHs, similar levels of nicotine, and lower levels of tobacco-specific nitrosamines.
What will hookah users get? “Hookah sickness.” Frequent users need treatment in hospital emergency rooms for symptoms including headache, nausea, lethargy, and fainting.
As for long-term effects, hookah smoking can inflict heart, gum, and lung diseases, and prenatal problems (low birth weight and pulmonary problems at birth), larynx and voice changes, and osteoporosis. And several types of cancers will be included in the list of “hookah diseases.” Just google hookah smoking, you will find tons of information about hookah’s health risks.
Because the tobacco is mixed with sweet fruits, it is even more addictive than a regular cigarette.
What about those people who work there or those who just hang around the lounges without smoking?
Second-hand smoke from hookahs contains significant amounts of toxic chemicals small enough to enter the lungs.
Studies have found that concentrations of particulate matter in the air of hookah bars were in the unhealthy to hazardous range according to the Environmental Protection Agency standards. According to Wikipedia, “the concentrations in the air of all these toxic substances are greater” than for cigarettes (for the same number of smokers per hour. One more important point: Hookah users may find it difficult to quit.
Think twice before you smoke hookah again. Oh, and thank the mayor for protecting the health of the citizens. (end)
For more information, go to http://www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health/tobacco.aspx.