The Utah Department of Health is proposing a change to the Utah Clean Air Act that would include hookah as a banned substance in public venues. The 1995 act currently states that “smoking is prohibited in all enclosed indoor places of public access and publicly owned buildings and offices.” However, because hookah is heated, not burned, it finds a loophole in the definition of smoking, which is “the possession of any lighted tobacco product in any form.” This ‘gray area’ concerns health department officials because hookah is still a form of secondhand smoke and no tobacco products, even those that are heated, are safe. “It’s definitely something that affects the health of the public,” says Utah Department of Health employee Jessie Adams. “It also sends a mixed message to those who go to businesses that no longer allow tobacco use in their facilities because of secondhand smoke. It sends the mixed message that hookah is the exception.” Hookah is a relatively new trend in North America that involves heating specially made tobacco and smoking it through a hookah pipe. When the law was enacted, says Adams, the tobacco product wasn’t even on the radar. Now, with the increase of hookah bars and the popularity of the product in Utah, legislative measures need to be taken. “It’s important with our laws trying to protect the health of our citizens in the public venues that we keep ahead of what’s the next new thing,” she says. A public hearing concerning the proposed ban has already been held. Further review of the comments and proposal must take place before any official decision can be made.
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