Waterpipe tobacco poisoning case highlights need for reform

Monday 4 May, 2015

Quit Victoria, the Heart Foundation and the Australian-Lebanese Medical Association have renewed calls for legislative reform to ban waterpipe smoking in enclosed workplaces following the carbon monoxide poisoning of a 20-year-old hookah smoker.

The regular hookah smoker was rushed to hospital with dizziness, nausea and lethargy and found to have a high concentration of carbon monoxide in her blood, according to a report published in the Medical Journal of Australia today.

Quit Victoria Director Dr Sarah White said the case was a reminder of the dangers of waterpipe smoke, which contains many of the same toxins as cigarette smoke.

“This includes substances like carbon monoxide, nicotine and heavy metals that cause cardiovascular disease, lung disease, cancer and addiction,’’ she said.

Dr White said Quit Victoria backed calls by the Australian-Lebanese Medical Association to bring waterpipe use, sale and advertising in line with other tobacco laws in Victoria.

The reforms would close a loophole in the Tobacco Act 1987 which means waterpipes can still be smoked in an enclosed workplace.

Victoria is the only Australian state that does not prohibit waterpipe smoking in enclosed workplaces.

Dr White said smoking had been banned in enclosed workplaces in Victoria – including restaurants and bars – since 2006.

She said it was unacceptable to continue to expose staff and customers to the well-known and documented health impacts of secondhand smoke, due to a legislative oversight.

Australian-Lebanese Medical Association president and cardiologist, Dr Walid Ahmar, said there was strong cross-cultural and community support for the legislative change.

Contact:  Kate Hagan, Media Manager, 0438 058 406

For help to quit smoking, contact Quitline on 13 78 48