TACOMA, Wash. – Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department made significant progress in protecting the health of young people with a Jan. 21 settlement.
The Night Owl Hookah Lounge opted to settle out of court and will no longer allow the smoking of tobacco products on its premises. It is the second Pierce County hookah lounge to settle with the Department. The Venus and Mars Hookah Lounge settled with the Department in September of 2012.
“Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death,” said Frank DiBiase, Environmental Health assistant division director. “Preventing young people from becoming addicted to tobacco curbs disease and saves lives,” he said.
Smoking tobacco through hookah pipes has health consequences that are similar to or worse than smoking cigarettes.
Located at 5211 S. Tacoma Way, the lounge permitted the smoking of tobacco through hookah pipes and sells hookah accoutrements. Young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 are typically the most common patrons of hookah lounges.
“Hookah lounges attract young people who may not realize the health implications of using these products,” said DiBiase. “Enforcing the state ban on Smoking in Public Places is an important public health priority, particularly when it impacts a population that’s at risk of becoming life time users of tobacco products,” he said.
The enforcement action is part of the Department’s two-pronged approach at addressing the health threat of tobacco use. In addition to enforcing the state ban on Smoking in Public Places, the Department proactively educates youth about the dangers of tobacco use, including alternative products such as hookah.
People who may not be attracted to using cigarettes, because they understand the risks, may use hookah because they think it’s not dangerous. The 2012 Pierce County Healthy Youth Survey found that 15.3 percent of high school seniors had smoked hookah in the past 30 days, which is up from 13.4 percent in 2008.
The Department launched its “Suck On This” campaign in September. Targeted to youth and young adults ages 13 to 22, it highlights the dangers of tobacco use and alternative tobacco products through compelling images and edgy text. Pierce Transit is running the campaign, and a Facebook page serves as a hub for youth who have learned about the campaign through events or advertisements.
Hookahs are water pipes used to smoke flavored tobacco products. The inhaled smoke and the secondhand smoke created are harmful to health. In one hour hookah smokers inhale 100-200 times the volume of smoke inhaled from a single cigarette. Research has shown that after the smoke passes through the water, it still contains high levels of toxic compounds including carbon monoxide, heavy metals, and cancer-causing chemicals.
Tobacco use continues to be the leading cause of preventable death in the nation and Washington State. Each year, about 440,000 people across the country and nearly 1,000 in Pierce County die from tobacco related causes, making it the leading cause of death in the county. While approximately 21 percent of all adults in Pierce County smoke tobacco, about 20 percent of high school seniors and 25 percent of young adults between 18 and 28 years of age smoke.The State’s Smoking in Public Places law as well as a local Board of Health resolution gives authority to the Health Department to enforce the state ban. The recent action reinforces the Department’s concerted effort to eliminate smoking in public places in order to protect public health.