Kazakhstan: Call to end teenage hookah 'epidemic'

A man prepares hookah pipes Hookah smoking is popular in various forms across the Middle East and Asia

An anti-smoking group in Kazakhstan is calling on lawmakers to ban hookah smoking, after it emerged that teenagers prefer the pipes to cigarettes.

A survey of over 2,000 school pupils found that 13% of 12-15 year-olds admitted to smoking a hookah, as opposed to 9% who have tried cigarettes, the Kazakh Tengrinews website reports. Nearly three-quarters of those who said they smoked a hookah told the survey they were not willing to give it up. Half of teenage cigarette smokers said they wanted to give up the habit, however, and had made attempts in the last year. Tengrinews says the average age of the first-time hookah smoker is 12 years old.

The campaign group - "For a Smoke-Free Kazakhstan!" - wants a total ban on the tobacco used in hookahs, saying its use would soon reach "epidemic proportions" in the country.

Figures published last October suggest that smoking is rife in Kazakhstan. Independent studies said up to 31% of adults in its largest city, Almaty, is a smoker, with average consumption of 15 cigarettes per day. Hookah smoking is far less popular amongst adults, however, with only 2% saying they use the pipes.

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