Hookah Ban: Karnataka Takes a Bold Step to Protect Public Health and Youth

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The Karnataka government has announced a statewide ban on the use and sale of hookah products, both tobacco and non-tobacco, at public places with immediate effect. The decision, which was made on Wednesday, aims to safeguard the health of its citizens and prevent the spread of tobacco-related diseases and addiction among the youth.

What is Hookah and Why is it Harmful?

Hookah, also known as shisha, narghile, or water pipe, is a device that heats up a mixture of tobacco, molasses, and flavouring agents, and passes the smoke through water before inhaling it. Hookah is often perceived as a safer alternative to cigarettes, but in reality, it poses several health risks. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), hookah smoking can cause:

  • Lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, and other respiratory diseases
  • Oral cancer, gum disease, and tooth decay
  • Cardiovascular diseases, such as high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke
  • Infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis, hepatitis, and herpes, due to sharing of mouthpieces
  • Nicotine dependence and addiction, especially among young people

Hookah smoking can also expose non-smokers to secondhand smoke, which can have harmful effects on their health. The WHO estimates that hookah smokers and those around them can inhale as much smoke as from 100 or more cigarettes during a typical one-hour session.

Why Did Karnataka Ban Hookah?

The Karnataka government decided to ban hookah after considering the alarming data from various sources, such as the WHO Global Adult Tobacco Survey-2016-17 (GATS-2), which states that 22.8 per cent of adults in Karnataka use tobacco, with 8.8 per cent being smokers. The report also reveals that 23.9 per cent of adults are exposed to secondhand smoke in public places, demonstrating the pervasive risk of tobacco consumption in the state.

Hookah Ban

The ban also addresses the illegal operation of numerous hookah bars in Karnataka, particularly those close to educational institutions. The health department noted that hookah bars violate several legal provisions, such as the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) 2003, the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, and the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. The ban prohibits the sale of hookah and related ingredients, advertising for the same, and promoting the business.

The health minister of Karnataka, Dinesh Gundu Rao, said that the ban is a bold step to protect the health of the people and the youth of the state. He said that hookah smoking is equivalent to smoking 20-40 cigarettes in a single session, and can lead to various diseases and addiction. He also said that the state government is committed to taking care of the health of its citizens and to eliminate health hazards.

How Will the Ban be Implemented and Enforced?

The ban on hookah will be implemented and enforced by the district authorities, the police, and the health officials, under the supervision of the deputy commissioners. The health department has issued a circular to all the district authorities, directing them to take necessary action to implement the ban. The circular also states that any violation of the ban will attract legal action under the relevant laws.

The ban on hookah is expected to have a positive impact on the public health and safety of the state, as well as on the environment. The ban will also help in reducing the burden of tobacco-related diseases and deaths, which cost the state exchequer around Rs. 13,000 crore annually, according to a study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).

The ban on hookah is also in line with the national and global efforts to curb tobacco use and promote a tobacco-free society. The ban is supported by various civil society organizations, health experts, and anti-tobacco activists, who have welcomed the move and urged other states to follow suit.

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