Sitting in a place that serves Arguileh (waterpipe) is like sitting in Salim Slem Tunnel. Literally!
Tunnel Air Quality
The National Tobacco Control Program recently carried out an Air Quality test inside Salim Slem Tunnel to measure the level of pollution emitted by car exhausts during the busiest time of day. The machine used (called SidePak) manages to capture ultra fine particles. These tiny particles go deep into the lungs and are easily absorbed into the bloodstream.
According to the World Health Organization, humans should be exposed to 25 ìg/m³ (25 particles per million) of these particles or less, to be considered in a safe and healthy environment. One would expect that the notorious tunnel would host ‘off the chart’ measurements. The test result proved this case when it recorded a 429 ìg/m³ which falls into the “Hazardous levels” according to the WHO.
The surprise came after comparing this result with tests previously done in 15 restaurants that served Arguileh, in which the measurements averaged at 376 ìg/m³. Well into the “Hazardous” range, the average air quality result for these restaurants was very close to that of Salim Slem tunnel. Six of these restaurants even had higher levels than Salim Slem, with one reaching a maximum of 723 ìg/m³!
The difference between the two locations, is that in a restaurant that serves Arguileh, you sit for hours, while it takes less than a minute to pass through Salim Slem Tunnel (most of the time with windows closed).
Dangers of Arguileh’s Second Hand Smoke
Would you take your family and kids out for a picnic in Salim Slem? Maybe spend a couple of hours hanging out with friends in the tunnel for a breather (locally known as “Yekhod Naffas”)? Many studies have repeatedly shown that the fumes emitted from waterpipes are extremely dangerous especially indoors. Just as air pollution in a non-ventilated tunnel concentrate to deadly levels; so does the invisible fume from waterpipe when used in enclosed places.
Medical Scientific evidence show that Second Hand Smoke from waterpipe, as well as all other tobacco products, increases the risk of serious medical conditions such as lung cancer, and heart disease which can lead to death. There is no safe level of exposure and even a little bit of second-hand smoke is harmful. Just 30 minutes of exposure produces some of the same physical reactions that would occur from long-term smoking, and increases the risk of heart disease in non-smokers.
A law that protects
No one is denying the fact that attention must be given to cleaning our air and water from pollution. These are worthy and equally important causes. People seem to be mislead by the dangers of tobacco and passive smoking due to many reasons. But when you think about the time an entire population spends sitting indoors where smoking is permitted compared to swimming in a polluted beach or a couple of seconds passing through an unventilated tunnel, only then will the threat and its consequences multiply.
A proposed tobacco control law is currently stuck, since January, in the Parliamentary Administrative and Justice Committee discussion sessions. One of the measures is to ban smoking 100% in all indoors public places. A recent study has shown that 85% of Lebanese are bothered by Second Hand Smoke and 93% do not believe that smokers have the right to smoke in public places.
With what seems to be an overwhelming support from the Lebanese public, everyone is wondering as to why this law is being delayed in parliament? Which brings up the question: why is the ‘health of the citizen’ a matter of debate in the first place?