I am writing this post having just returned from the First International Conference on Waterpipe Tobacco Research, which was held in Abu Dhabi on October 21-23. The conference was sponsored
by the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute, International Development Research Centre, Syrian Center for Tobacco Studies, NYU Abu Dhabi Public Health Research Center and American University of Beirut. Conference participants shared their expertise regarding what is known about waterpipe tobacco smoking, including areas such as epidemiology, addiction, health effects, social media and economics.
The central messages of the conference were that waterpipe tobacco smoking is spreading worldwide and is a serious public health threat. These messages were so clear to all participants that, on the last day of the conference, they unanimously approved the following declaration, which I am happy to share with you now:
More than 100 leading scientists, policy makers, academics, and public health advocates from 18 countries across five continents convened inAbu Dhabito review the evidence and recommend actions to curb the waterpipe tobacco pandemic. The following findings and recommendations were issued on October 23, 2013:
- Waterpipe smoking has become a global epidemic, especially among youth.
- As with cigarettes, waterpipe smoking is harmful and addictive.
- Secondhand waterpipe smoke is harmful to everyone exposed, especially children and other vulnerable individuals.
- Education, mass media, and other approaches should be harnessed immediately to communicate the dangers of waterpipe smoking; especially to deglamorize and correct misperceptions about the water filtration process.
- Policies to stop the global spread of waterpipe tobacco smoking are urgent public health priorities; especially support and evaluation of programs that prevent youth initiation and encourage smoking cessation.
- Urgent policy priorities include a ban on flavored waterpipe products and specific inclusion of waterpipe smoking in clean indoor air regulations.
- Other important policy priorities include more effective warning labels, increasing taxes, restricting access to youth, and eliminating waterpipe tobacco product advertising and marketing.
I urge everyone reading this post to share this declaration with policymakers and other public health advocates. We have come too far to allow this new strain in the tobacco pandemic to take hold across the globe.