Hookah Home Delivery a New Fear

Hookah Home Delivery a New Fear
Hookah Home Delivery a New Fear

While the tobacco consumption rate is increasing in the country and sterner measures should be taken to stem the tide, a new phenomenon has emerged; that of single-use home delivery hookahs or ‘fast-doods’ (‘dood’ literally means smoke in Farsi), as they are called in local parlance.

The ‘fast-dood’ centers deliver a package containing a disposable hookah (water pipe), a box of matches and some junk food for only $5, the Persian language weekly ‘Tejarat-e-Farda’ reported.

Permitted or not, the activity of such centers indicates the growing patronage for hookah smoking and its popularity across the country even while permits for new hookah joints are slowly being denied as the government tries to discourage tobacco use and smoking.

According to Tejarat-e-Farda and based on figures released by the Health Ministry, in 2013 9% of Iranians were users of tobacco products and the figure increased to 19.5% by the end of last year (March 19). About 12.5% were women.

Hookah smoking which is gaining popularity particularly among teens and young adults is more harmful than cigarette smoking; hookah use is equivalent to smoking 100 cigarettes in a 200-puff session.

The Health Ministry says each year Iranians spend tens of millions of dollars on cigarettes and tobacco products while the cost of treatment of smoking-related illnesses in the country is thrice the amount.

  Reducing Stress?

About 4.2% of Tehranis are regular smokers, 6.1% smoke every day, 0.9% once in a while, and 1.8% gave up smoking recently (at present, 3% of Iranian women and 28% of Iranian men smoke cigarettes; and 25% of women and 18% of men use water pipes).  

The average number of cigarettes each Tehrani smokes is 12. The average age of starting to smoke is 18.7 and the average age of water-pipe smoking is 18.9.

According to a recent survey, 34.9% of the smokers said they smoke to reduce their tension and stress. Tough economic times and hardships can play a role in tobacco consumption increase.

It also pointed out that 41.9% of those surveyed said they are living with at least one family member who smokes.

The survey showed: smokers are starting to smoke at a younger age; hookah use has increased dramatically during the recent decade; more young women are smoking; hookah is replacing cigarettes among teens and many parents think hookah is safer than cigarettes and therefore consider it acceptable (they can’t imagine that their teen is smoking 100 cigarettes in just an hour); and tobacco consumption is not limited anymore to any specific social group.

  Control Programs

Tobacco control programs began in the developed countries almost half a century ago, while it is almost 20 years since Iran started its first action against tobacco, says Mohammad Reza Masjedi, director of the Anti-Smoking Society.

Pointing to the recent measures taken to decrease tobacco consumption, he said this year (for the first time in the last six years) retail tax on imported, joint venture and domestically produced cigarettes were raised by 20, 30, and 40%, respectively.

In response to a query whether or not the measure would be effective, he said, “According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in high-income countries, a 10% increase in tobacco prices will reduce consumption by about 4%. The effect of higher prices on reducing consumption is likely to be greater in low and middle-income countries.”

Pointing to the rising popularity of water pipes, he urged the government, parliament and judiciary to reduce youth access and exposure to the harmful product.

While cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, including 43 known cancer-causing (carcinogenic) compounds and 400 other toxins, there are 7,500 chemicals in hookah smoke, he said.

Currently, there are 8,000 coffeehouses in the country which serve hookah without permits. Also a significant number of traditional restaurants have hookah on their menu cards.

  Smoke-Free Village

Bolbolabad village located in Hormozgan Province is the only smoke-free place in the country, Masjedi said.  

It is 10 years since no person in the village has used cigarette or hookah. Given the fact that using hookah is very popular and widespread in the country’s southern regions, the ban on smoking should be considered a big success.  About ten years ago, when the village residents became aware of the harmful effects of tobacco products on health, they decided to break their water pipes and announced that no one has the right to marry in a family that has even one member who smokes.

This village is an exception in the country.