Ethnic leaders call on MPs to close waterpipes loophole in Victoria

Tuesday 13 September, 2016

Leaders from local African and Middle Eastern communities have joined other ethnic groups in calling for MPs to support a proposal before the Victorian Parliament to bring waterpipe use, sale and advertising into line with other tobacco laws.

"Waterpipe smoke contains many of the same toxins as cigarette smoke including carbon monoxide, nicotine and heavy metals. These toxins can cause cardiovascular and lung disease and various cancers, including for people who are exposed to secondhand smoke.

"Victoria is the only Australian state that allows waterpipe smoking in enclosed workplaces - and there is no cultural reason for this to occur."

A waterpipe (also known as a hookah or shisha) is a device for vaporising and smoking flavoured tobacco, in which the vapour or smoke is passed through a water basin before inhalation. In an average waterpipe session, a smoker inhales an amount of tar roughly equivalent to smoking 25 cigarettes.

Dr Ahmar said he was pleased the Greens, with support from the Coalition, have proposed an amendment to the Tobacco Amendment Bill 2016 that would bring waterpipes into line with other tobacco laws. He urged cross-party support for the amendment, which is currently before the parliament.

The change is supported by Victorian ethnic leaders including from the African, Iraqi, Afghan, Pakistani, Arabic, Middle Eastern and Greek communities. It is also the position of the Heart Foundation, Cancer Council Victoria and Quit Victoria.

African Think Tank chairman Dr Berhan Ahmed said the change was important to protect young people from the dangers of waterpipe tobacco.

"Our kids are sitting around all night in these venues and breathing in the smoke. Unless something is done, there will be big health problems in future which will cost the health system lots of money,'' Dr Ahmed said.

Quit Victoria Director Dr Sarah White said it was unacceptable to expose staff and customers to the well-known and documented health impacts of secondhand smoke, due to a legal loophole on waterpipes.