Smoking tobacco in a water pipe, also called a hookah or nargileh, often leads to the use of dangerous, addictive drugs, according to experts speaking Wednesday before the Knesset Committee for the Struggle Against Drugs and Alcohol.
MK Muhammad Barakei (Hadash) said that even though the subject is not often discussed, it should be because according to what he called “shocking data,” water pipe use has been known to lead to the use of hard drugs, even among children.
Committee members heard that although smokers believe water pipes are “harmless,” using one to smoke tobacco is more dangerous than smoking cigarettes, as the process takes longer and more nicotine is delivered to the lungs.
They were also told that enforcing laws against the sale of water pipe tobacco and equipment to minors was very difficult. Often, parents smoke them with their children as a “social experience” – not only in the Arab sector, but increasingly among Jewish families.
In a survey of upwards of 10,000 pupils in the sixth, eighth and tenth grades at 250 schools, fully 20 percent admitted to having smoked a water pipe at least once. Boys used them more than girls.
Ten percent of the Arab pupils said they used them at least once a week. Unfortunately, the committee was told, elementary school teachers hardly talk about the dangers of water pipe smoking, and only 30% have discussed it at all.
Barakei said that customs duties on tobacco used in water pipes were not enough to discourage their use, with over 10 tons of such tobacco recently being uncovered after being smuggled into the country. He suggested that a conference on the use of water pipes be held to hear from all the relevant authorities.