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Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2015;16(2):621-6.

Opportunistic insights into occupational health hazards associated with waterpipe tobacco smoking premises in the United Kingdom.

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Queen Mary, University of London, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Institute of Dentistry, London, UK E-mail :



Smokefree laws aim to protect employees and the public from the dangers of secondhand smoke. Waterpipe premises have significantly increased in number in the last decade, with anecdotal reports of poor compliance with the smokefree law. The literature is bereft of information pertaining to waterpipe premise employees. This study aimed to opportunistically gather knowledge about the occupational health hazards associated with working in waterpipe premises in London, England.


Employees from seven convenience-sampled, smokefree-compliant waterpipe premises in London were observed for occupational activities. Opportunistic carbon monoxide (CO) measurements were made among those with whom a rapport had developed. Observations were thematically coded and analysed.


Occupational hazards mainly included environmental smoke exposure. Waterpipe-serving employees were required to draw several puffs soon after igniting the coals, thereby providing quality assurance of the product. Median CO levels were 27.5 ppm (range 21-55 ppm) among these employees. Self-reported employee health was poor, with some suggestion that working patterns and smoke exposure was a contributory factor.


The smokefree law in England does not appear to protect waterpipe premise employees from high levels of CO. Continued concerns surrounding chronic smoke exposure may contribute to poor self-reported physical and mental wellbeing.

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