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Open Access Commentary

A critique of the WHO TobReg's "Advisory Note" report entitled: "Waterpipe tobacco smoking: health effects, research needs and recommended actions by regulators"

Kamal Chaouachi

Author Affiliations

Researcher in Socio-Anthropology and Tobaccology, Consultant in Tobacco Control, 62, avenue Victor Hugo; 92100 Boulogne Billancourt, France

Journal of Negative Results in BioMedicine 2006, 5:17  doi:10.1186/1477-5751-5-17

Published: 17 November 2006

Abstract

Background and aim

The World Health Organisation Study Group on Tobacco Product Regulation (TobReg) has issued in 2005 an "Advisory Note" entitled: "Waterpipe Tobacco Smoking: Health Effects, Research Needs and Recommended Actions by Regulators". "Waterpipe" smoking is now considered a global public health threat and the corresponding artefact is actually known in the world under three main terms: hookah, narghile and shisha. This important report, the first ever prepared by WHO on the subject, poses two major problems. On one hand, its bibliographical references dismiss world chief relevant studies. On the other, it contains a certain number of errors of many orders: biomedical, sociological, anthropological and historical. The purpose of the present study is to highlight, one by one, where these weaknesses and errors lie and show how this official report can be considerably improved.

Results

We realise that widely advertised early anthropological studies were not taken into consideration whereas they shed a substantial light on this peculiar form of smoking and help understanding its high complexity. As for concrete errors to be found in this report, they deal with the chemistry of smoke, health-related effects, smoking patterns, description and history of the artefact and its use, gender and underage use aspects, prevention and research needs in this field.

Conclusion

The scientific credibility of an international expert report may be at stake if its recommendations do not rely on sound objective research findings and a comprehensive review of the existing literature. The critical comments in this study will certainly help improve the present WHO report.