More state regulation needed for hookah lounges

On April 15, 2006, the New Jersey Smoke-Free Act went into effect. It banned smoking in all enclosed places, with the exemption of beaches, city parks, cigar bars, tobacco retail stores, tobacco-manufacturing facilities, private residences and automobiles.

I am concerned with the increase of hookah lounges opening in New Jersey. My major concern is the lack of regulation by the state.

I recently heard that some hookah lounges may be allowing 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds to smoke. In 2006 Gov. Richard Codey signed a bill raising the tobacco purchasing age from 18 to 19. I am concerned about whether these hookah lounges are carding these minors, who have no idea of the long-term effect hookah can have on their health.

An hour of puffs from a hookah pipe has the same carbonmonoxide punch as a pack-a-day cigarette habit. This is not a riskfree activity.

Hookahs, which are similar to the bongs used to smoke marijuana, have grown in popularity. Carbon-monoxide levels, which grow in a room where the people smoke hookahs, might reach environmentally unhealthy levels.

Research has suggested that smoking a hookah pipe for 45 minutes produces 36 times more tar than smoking a cigarette. Tar or “nicotine-free, dry-particulate matter” contains the cancer-causing constituents of the smoke.

Occasional hookah-pipe tobacco smoking may carry health risks, and it may also be dangerous because it can lead to daily water-pipe use, regular cigarette smoking or both.

Diane Tehan