At the March 18 meeting, a request was made to the Lincolnton Planning Board to allow a hookah café in our central business district. The hookah may be more familiar as a tobacco-burning water pipe. The business would offer customers the opportunity to enjoy sitting around smoking the tobacco pipes, socializing, drinking coffee and consuming desserts. Who could object to such a pleasant, enjoyable, relaxing opportunity to socialize? Perhaps those who find no pleasure, enjoyment or relaxation in nicotine addiction, lung cancer, respiratory diseases, asthma, heart disease, oral cancer, bladder cancer, stomach cancer, and babies born under weight and with respiratory diseases. In January 2010, the North Carolina General Assembly enacted a law that severely restricted smoking, and second hand smoke, in public places. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has declared, “similar to cigarettes, hookah smoking delivers the addictive drug nicotine and is at least as toxic as cigarette smoking.”
The issue of Hookah smoking is not limited to adult individuals. Their research found that in 2011, 18.5 percent of 12th grade students in the U.S. used hookahs in the past year and university student use ranged from 22 percent to 40 percent. They also concluded “…due to the method of smoking — including frequency of puffing, depth of inhalation, and length of smoking session — hookah smokers may absorb higher concentrations of the same toxins found in cigarette smoke.” The research and conclusions from the CDC are also reported by the American Lung Association. The world renowned Mayo Clinic reported that “hookah smoking contains high levels of toxic compounds, including tar, carbon monoxide, heavy metals, and cancer-causing chemicals (carcinogens). In fact, hookah smokers are exposed to more carbon monoxide than are cigarette smokers.”
Following discussions on the matter of hookah cafés, the Planning Board voted unanimously to reject the request. What adults do in their own residences was not a factor in this vote. However, the city government condoning such establishments, was a significant factor. The concern is the message such city action would give to teens and young adults. If the city allows businesses, whose principal product is smoking, then there can’t be anything wrong with smoking. Governments at the national, state, and county levels, and our society as a whole, have taken legislative, taxation and educational actions to reduce smoking, and the associated health dangers, the message that “there is nothing wrong with smoking” is the last idea the city should be sending.
At their April 3 meeting, the City Council will discuss the issue of hookah cafés. If you believe smoking rooms in Lincolnton are not in the best interest of our family, friends and neighbors, please contact the City Councilmen or attend the meeting to express your concerns.