Bill would make possession
of hookah by minor illegal

Alia Beard Rau

Jan. 12, 2012 The Republic |

It's already illegal in Arizona to sell or give cigarettes, cigars or tobacco to a minor.

But the Legislature may soon make hookahs, water pipes or any other item used for consuming tobacco illegal for minors as well.

House Bill 2034 proposes to make it a petty offense to sell or give such an item to a minor or for a minor to buy or possess such an item. The penalty for a minor would be a $100 fine or 30 hours of community service.

Bill sponsor Rep. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, said constituents asked her to propose the measure because of a growing concern with kids smoking hookahs at local cafes.

Yee said reports have indicated that one hour of hookah inhalation is equal to smoking 100 to 200 cigarettes. She said the tobacco used in hookahs does include toxins linked to cancer. She said the mouthpiece often shared by several people also spreads diseases.

The bill passed the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, but it still must get through the House Health and Human Services Committee before going before the full House.

Judiciary Committee members had some concerns about the wording in the bill.

Rep. Albert Hale, D-Window Rock, asked that Yee change the bill to exclude instances where juveniles may have a pipe for religious or ceremonial purposes.

"A minor who is a practitioner and a believer in the Native American way and ceremonies will have that," Hale said.

Other lawmakers were concerned that the bill could penalize an adult who bought a hookah on a trip overseas and brought it home as a souvenir gift for a family member.

Yee said she will make changes before the bill goes to the full House, including creating exceptions for ceremonial circumstances.

"This bill is about creating safer public-health standards for our teenage population and sending a clear message that hookah smoke is not a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes," she said.