Waterpipe Smoking: Public health protection over traditional cultural practices
As more becomes known about the dangers of waterpipe (also known as hookah) smoking, both tobacco as well as other “herbal” concoctions, jurisdictions worldwide are responding with prohibitions in public places and workplaces. In Canada, concerns regarding insensitivity to long-standing cultural practices have been voiced in public discussions about the possible explicit inclusion of waterpipes in new smoke-free laws. Vancouver’s smoke-free bylaw was legally challenged under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, with claims of violations of freedom of conscience and religion, among other things. However, given the toxicity of all second-hand smoke, protection of cultural practices is not a valid argument against public health protection.