Hookah pipes

UCLA School of Nursing Assistant Professor Dr. Mary Rezk-Hanna has co-authored a new commentary that could influence lawmakers to expand the ban on flavored tobacco to include hookah (waterpipe) tobacco products. 

In 2022, California Senate Bill 793 (SB 793) passed, prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products, including flavored e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes, and more. The law, however, does not apply to flavored hookah tobacco. According to the publication, the exemption in California, as well as in other states, was granted in response to newly coordinated efforts by the National Hookah Community Association, which claimed several reasons to except flavored hookah tobacco products, including cultural and religious importance of hookah tobacco. 

Mary Rezk-Hanna
UCLA School of Nursing Assistant Professor Dr. Mary Rezk-Hanna

Dr. Rezk-Hanna’s research focuses on investigating the cardiovascular health effects and potential harms of conventional, new and emerging tobacco products, specifically hookah smoking, which is extremely popular in the Middle East and North Africa and growing in popularity in the United States. Whereas the industry claims that hookah is unappealing to youth, epidemiological evidence do not support these claims. In the commentary, Dr. Rezk-Hanna and her co-author provide evidence refuting the industry’s claims used to argue for flavored hookah tobacco product exemptions from flavor bans. 

“We thought it would be a timely opportunity to present claims made by hookah tobacco industry representatives to oppose inclusion of hookah tobacco in flavored tobacco policies and importantly show the lack of evidence supporting these claims,” said Dr. Rezk-Hanna. “The information provided in this commentary could be particularly useful to advocates, local and state policymakers.”

SB 793 was designed to stop the sale of flavored tobacco products in an effort to curb use by adolescents and young adults. This population is also a primary user of hookah in the United States, which utilizes flavored tobacco. 

“Flavors play a key role in youth and young adults’ initiation in these products and also in continuing to use these products,” she said. “To protect these vulnerable populations from tobacco initiation and lifelong addiction and harm, flavor bans should comprehensively include all tobacco and nicotine products, including hookah flavored tobacco products,” the commentary says.

Read the entire commentary in Nicotine & Tobacco Research from Oxford University Press