The Ombudsman declares war… on exotic smoking pipes

Violent video games? Nope. This is the new public enemy number one for the Venezuelan State.

People’s Ombudsman (and former PSUV deputy) Gabriela Ramírez has taken the initiative for once and stop her usual routine of blaming everything on the IV Republic. She asked a court to stop two companies of keep selling what she considers to be a danger to children and teenagers.

No, it’s not guns. They’re already banned (the legal ones). For her, the narguile or hookah, a smoking pipe of Middle Eastern origin is actually a more dangerous thing.

Days ago, the National Anti-Drug Office (ONA) warned about an increase in ads for these pipes on newspapers and online. The use of hoohaks with tobacco is more hazardous than regular cigarrettes and they can be used to consume other drugs as well.

Only if she can show that same commitment and diligence to stand up for the victims of violence in Venezuela instead of repeating the script from Miraflores on the issue

However this brings to mind a related story: the ONA reported in late May that  7 million Venezuelans are active smokers. This is a serious public health topic that eventually needs to be adressed and you don’t do that by picking on nostalgic Arab-Venezuelans.

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  1. That’s right, because nothing like a harsh toke to discourage drug use in the young. (?) The DEA will be thrilled. Wait for the news about Venezuela being taken off that List…..

  2. Just got back from a stay in the “imperio”.
    While in Ft. Lauderdale we were in a beach side bar & they had Hookaks there for the patrons.

    As a child of the 60s & 70s I can think of only one use for these however I understand that other chemicals are provided for them.

    Don’t really “get it”

  3. I know Iranian don’t consider themselves to be arabs, but I’d guess they have some kind of Hookah variation. I’d like to know what all the Iranians the government has brought to the country think about this, given how zealous they tend to be about their traditions. Maybe they’ll be exempt from the ban.

    • Im guessing they really don’t give a crap about Iran if they came here to get filthy rich and buy imported goodies from the Empire.

  4. I have to agree with the ONA on this one, In my opinion there is no absolute need for the Venezuelan people to be using this kind of things, mainly for health reasons.

    Although is an object with cultural meaning for others societies, the cultural value for Venezuelan people is zero, therefore it could be potentially used to consume drugs.

    Another solution could be the government allowing the use of these things with some disclaimer and banning that person from the public health care system. If you are smart enough to buy these things then you are smart enough to pay your own medical bills.

    • 1.- Since when consumption is about ‘absolute needs’? Who decides what ‘absolute needs’ means?
      2.- Why does the State have to decide what I do with my body so long as it doesn’t represent harm to others? Don’t we constantly complain about this government’s totalitarian deliria?
      3.- How does the absence of ‘cultural value’ relate to drug use? Who decides what is of ‘cultural value’ to ‘Venezuelans’? What is a ‘Venezuelan’ for you?
      4.- Which public health care system are you talking about? Have you ever been to a Venezuelan public hospital? And, should we ban horseback riding because it is also a very-high-risk behaviour or exclude people who do it from the public health care system?

      Banning hookahs is a liberticidal and counterproductive move by a government whose drug policy is even more backwards than the DEA’s.

      • I have to disagree with this. The damage of smoking using Hookah is greater than that of smoking cigarrettes. The cultural value is bull shit. In some African nations mutilation of women clitoris may have a cultural value but still is a horrible practice.

        • I am not sure that one form of tobacco or drug intake is worst than another, if a water-pipe is banned, than all pipes should be banned since the same potential for harm exists. As with most issues regarding these types of government initiatives, it amounts for no more than a flash in the pan designed to give the impression that something is being done while effectively achieving nothing.

      • Well Ochoa,first of all, I’m not totally against the state serving and protecting the people. You should know that there are rules and regulations that prevent people from harming themselves or others. Anybody will try to sell you anything, just to receive some form income, regardless of what is good for you or not. We need strong regulations when it comes to security and health care for the people. For that this kind of policy is totally justified and necessary.

        The hookaks has no cultural value in Venezuela, because that sort of things has no origin in Venezuela. Those things were brought to Venezuela, We are not talking about hallacas, pan de Jamon, Arepas, Alpargatas, Trompo, Gurrufio etc. We are talking about stuffs that could be used for misconduct, and people could be harmed by it, even when people are willingly using it.

        So for for descendant of Arabs in Venezuela they KNOW how to use it and why.Try to tell any of them that you are using their precious heritage for drugs, and they will laugh at you for being such ignorant moron. Let’s not kid ourselves, I sincerely doubt that an average Venezuelan adolescent, with no relation with the Arab community, would know the cultural heritage of the hookahs.

        Regarding the Venezuelan health care system, Yes I’ve been in a Public Venezuelan Hospital and some works fine others not so much, I was treated in one Public Hospital, Maracay Palo Negro, good doctors, good attention, free medication… can’t complain, As always there many things to improve. But we are not that bad.

        You are bit confused, every activity carries its risks, is more likely for people to be deadly affected by drugs and tobacco than horse back riding. For me is very unfair to use taxpayer’s money in huge medical bills for drugs addicts, not when people were warned about the misuse of drugs. They have to pay those bills for themselves after they got cured from the addiction.

        • You’re just hiding your own ignorance about the matter behind a grandiloquent slogan (‘to serve and to protect’) and nationalist sentiment (‘alpargatas, trompo, gurrofío…’.

          A great deal of things can be used for ‘misconduct’/illegal activities. I can buy a knife and kill somebody with it, I can buy a pipe and smoke weed with it…prohibiting the sale of products just because they can be potentially harmful is preposterous. This pre-modern response that favours prohibition vs. information and harm-reduction is absolutely puzzling and has no logic.

          And no, I am not ‘a bit confused’; I happen to care about this subject and I’m tired of people judging drugs based on myths and supposed ‘common sense’. Horseback riding IS more dangerous than cannabis or ecstasy, for example (I can send you studies, if you insist); and alcohol (a drug) kills and costs exponentially more than tobacco (a drug) to taxpayers…does that mean we have to ban alcohol? Because we know that works so well…

          This atavistic policy that privileges prohibition towards anything that smells of drugs has not worked and will never work.

          • ONA is not banning hookahs just on a whim. They detected the danger and they acted accordingly. Venezuela is not the only country concerned about the misuse of the Hookaks. USA for instance, Canada as well. People are simply not using it in the way that was originally intended.

            BTW, Why are you insisting in horse back riding? Did you felt off of a horse? Is that it? How many people is doing horseback ride? How many dies because the misuse of drugs?

            We are not talking about weed or a candy bar, we are talking about serious and powerful drugs that can shit out a person, inhibit the self awareness of one individual, because those drugs were designed and made to have that kind of effects on people. In such condition he/she represents a danger to himself/herself and for everyone around. Just like with alcohol.

            Yes, I’ve read the statistics, Alcohol is number one problem in the Health care system, and as you said, alcohol. a legalized drug is giving more troubles than non legalized drugs, so you can imagine how painful will be when those drugs gets a legal status. I think you’d just contradict yourself. It seems that harmful reduction and information is not working very well with alcohol isn’t?

          • Seriously though, horse back riding is a subset of horse riding, which can be only performed by people that knows what they are doing. No way that there are more peoples dying for horse back riding than by people using drugs.

          • ‘No hay peor ciego que el que no quiere entender’ and you’re not even trying, mate. I *literally* said ‘Horseback riding IS more dangerous than cannabis or ecstasy’ not that there were ‘more peoples [sic] dying for [sic] horse back [sic] riding than by people [sic] using drugs’.

            Plus, who said drug use was additive? Why would de-criminalising and regulating the production/distribution/sales of, lets say, cannabis lead to even more harm? That implies consumption is directly proportional to offer and that’s simply not true.

            And you still have to tell me if we’re to ban knives because they can be potentially used to kill people. Wouldn’t it be more sane and democratic to campaign for the proper use of knives?…or hookahs?

          • Hey your brought that up, your first comment implied the more dangerous the activity the more likely that people die by doing said activity, and that was not the case. But I recognize that I had misinterpret your first comment. My apologies.

            As for drugs, you chose cannabis for your argument very carefully right? But there are in fact very *addictive* drugs, designed for, as a I said, to do anything but good on people. If such drugs gets a legal status, you basically have an incentive to produce it, because of its addictive nature, people will tend to buy it even more. There are many examples of drugs lying around that creates addiction, alcohol, tobacco, chemicals for fast food, soda etc. The difference that they cause a very subtle but long term harm on people.

            Well You can say knifes, and I could say cars, you could say spoons, I could say hammers and we could go a long way naming dangerous stuffs, that could be used to cause harm and that would be pointless. The thing about addictive drugs is they modify behaviors, and the ability to shut down the self awareness of the individual, from that point anything could happen and he/she is a danger for everybody.

        • “The hookaks has no cultural value in Venezuela, those things were brought to Venezuela, We are not talking about hallacas, pan de Jamon, Arepas, Alpargatas, Trompo, Gurrufio etc.”

          Funny list: Hallacas (brought from Central America), Alpargatas (from Spain), Pan de Jamón (Portugal), Trompo (China), apparently these things do have cultural value, but just because they aren’t associated with dirty arabs.

          I wasn’t going to go there, but at this point it’s evident: your position boils down to “Things that are only associated with ethnic groups I don’t identify with have zero cultural value.” That’s just racist.

          • Xenophobia.
            Let’s also ban sushi because it has no cultural value for Venezuelans.Also ban cuban cigars,checkers,domino,kites,electric guitars,acoustic guitars, cuatros since they use the same principle(box,strings,wood) and etc

          • Did I woke up in a bizarre world?, or am I receiving anti-racism speech from people that obviously has not idea of racism. go figure.

      • I find it interesting how many people profess a belief in liberty, but when it comes to other people doing something they don’t approve of, they see fit to restrict the liberties of others in the name of protecting them from themselves.

      • Well one thing for sure, that if I don’t trust the government I would not certainly trust in someone whose concept of freedom is being reduced to being allowed to harm themselves.

  5. Not sure why smoking gets a worse rap than all the other dangerous habits we partake in daily. Just sitting in traffic in any third-world city is hazardous to your lungs due to the high sulfur content of gas/diesel in developing nations. Likewise, I’m sure the calorie-heavy Venezuelan diet with all its saturated fat is going to make our arteries real happy. While I’m not a smoker, I’ve never quite understood the zeal with which some people tend to pursue smokers. If we banned alcohol because it can (potentially) cause cirrhosis of the liver or lead us to beat our spouse people would lose their minds. It’s all about what’s culturally acceptable and I suppose smoking is becoming less culturally acceptable. Almost makes me want to go out and get a bloody hookah just to stick it to these busybody bureaucrats.

  6. I smoked cigarettes for 36 years before quitting on May 31st last year.
    My father is no longer around because he smoked forever, had an operation and spent a year on a breathing machine before “passing the paramo”

    Smoking gets a lousy rap because it is highly addictive ( I still have dreams about smoking) and does so much damage to ones body, and those around you.

    I can count on one hand the number of people I know who can take or leave smoking cigarettes on a whim. Unlike consumption of alcohol, if you smoke you smoke all the time. You cannot equate alcohol consumption to smoking because although you can become addicted to alcohol, chances are that most people can have a drink or three and that’s it until next time. Not so with smoking.

    Being of Arab descent, the hookah does have for us a cultural place in our lives. It is part of the hospitality that is typical of the average Arab household. Fortunately most of the tobacco used in hookahs is pure and does not contain the smorgasbord of addiction inducing chemicals present in cigarettes (thanks to Phillip Morris et al). That being said, tobacco in its pure form does contain the most powerful poison known to man, nicotine, so even in it’s pure form it’s still worse than alcohol or even marijuana for that matter.

    Still, all in all, I’m all for letting people smoke tobacco whether it’s in cigarette or hookah form. What I will not tolerate is that it be smoked inside my home, nor will I give you a pass in a public place. If your smoke is in my face, I’ll let you know I don’t appreciate it and ask nicely that you blow somewhere else or I’ll leave.

    Banning hookahs in Venezuela is just another example of how these idiots want to ban the horse and expect the cart to move somehow. Just like their economic policy.

    • Well that’s precisely the point. People have the freedom to injure themselves if they want but there are limits when it comes to respecting the health and rights of others. I suppose what rubs me the wrong way is the ‘we do this because it’s good for you’ idea. I mean, there’s loads of stuff we do every day that’s dangerous but somehow…hookahs are a pressing matter?

      • That the Ombudsperson of Venezuela is worrying about Hookahs is ridiculous. It brings to mind these ridiculous surprise edicts Chavez made before holiday weekends on alcohol sales…instead of just enforcing the law, i. e. Against drinking and driving, there had to be a ban, because thats how dictatorial minds think about solving problems, and of course the ban just went…unenforced, like the existing law. I suppose one day the Ombudsperson can point to the absence of a hookah epidemic as a sign of great success…

    • There’s a lot to be learnt from your personal experience, thank you for the post. Tobacco is without a doubt considerably more intoxicating and potentially harmful than cannabis (and even ecstasy according to many studies). But it is dangerous to infer that tobacco is much more dangerous than alcohol just because its potential to cause dependance is [slightly] higher. To my knowledge, alcohol abuse causes a tad more harm than tobacco due to its potentially collateral damages (traffic accidents, violence, poisoning, etc.).

      In any case, the point is drug-policy should be about harm-reduction, risk-limitation, information and regulation…not about prohibition and criminalisation. By prohibiting, we’re just creating incentives for production (by driving prices up) and consumption (by mystifying these products).

      • I agree, but the caveat here is that the government isn’t banning tobacco (which might, maybe, constitute a legitimate argument).
        The government is banning the pipe you smoke tobacco in (’cause, y’know, there isn’t any other way in the world of smoking tobacco and harming your health).
        They act like the Gallego in that joke, where he sells the couch his wife is having sex with her neighbor on, to “stop the problem”.

        • Yeah, I meant to say prohibition of hookahs would not stop them from being sold; they will just become pricier and more of an attraction to curious youngsters.

          • And would make rich a band of thugs who would control the markets and wouldn’t pay any taxes for it.

          • Like many things in our country, one must ask, qui bono (who benefits). I’m sure I’m not the only one who remembers when, in their infinite wisdom, the Interior minister of the time (My brain says it was Octavio Lepage, but I might have been hitting the hookah hard back then) banned motorcycles over 600cc because many were used in bank heists. This was done along with bannng full face helmets and passengers on motorcycles as a way to fight bank robberies.

            Now, ask yourself how many 600cc plus bikes did you see on the streets after that? Answer : boatloads! Plus full face helmets and passengers!

            Who benefited? Guardia Nacionales in the Customs department, Ministry of Transportation license plate clerks and traffic cops.

            This Hookah ban is just more of the same…

          • As Prohibition worked in the US for the mob. At the end, Chavismo is no different from traditionally conservative governments in the sense that, under the argument of the evils of capitalism, is actually a very moralizing ideology (if it can be called like that) that underestimates the capacity of people to discern what’s good for them. The Simpsons, el Sambil, Hookah, are evils and must be forbidden so the stupid masses wont be fooled by them.

          • Yes, the puritanical streak appears to be a symptom of the competition among the functionaries to demonstrate their ideological purity in order to move up the ranks. A red baseball hat and a willingness to say anything one is told to say will simply not cut it for the ambitious revolutionary.

  7. “Aldeanismo” is still alive and kickin’ in Venezuela despite the trips to Miami, New York, Paris and Madrid. Otherwise I wouldn’t find the reason some people denounce Chavez as undemocratic and at the same time do not show the least respect for a cultural minority because it doesn’t appeal to them.

    A hookah is the Arab version of a vaporizer. Nothing more, nothing less. Relating it exclusively to drugs, addiction and diseases just shows how lightly they jump into conclusions without getting well informed first, just like the Ombudsman of Venezuela is doing. Speaking of public servants, I recall bans on other things for the same reason, like trawling, violence on video games, electronic cigarettes, Coca Cola Zero, hotlines and TV shows (The Simpsons, Family Guy, Caso Cerrado, Chepe Fortuna) just to name a few. Producing a sensible regulation goes beyond their brainpower.

    Come on, don’t go banning and forbidding and censoring and besieging like a Chavez’ lapdog. Learn about the subject and then decide for yourselves.

  8. You’d have to be a complete idiot to want to smoke marijuana through a hookah. Combusting weed through a hookah results in so much residual smoke that even the least paranoid of smokers would lose their mellow as they watch their stash vanish away in a mist of wasted smoke. Leave it to this government to legistlate things they know nothing about.

  9. The problem with the ombusdman office in Venezuela, aside from the fact that it has been totally politicized, is that its role was only created in 99 by the chavista constitution and it is not well understood. An ombusdman is supposed to be someone that smooths out the relationship between the citizen and the goverment and, when finding problems, makes general recommendations for change. It is usually a “neutral” role of someone hired by an institution, but with enough independent space to be effective when making the recommendations to that institution.

    I think the problem starts with the name “Defensor del pueblo”. For Gabriela Ramírez and her predecesors, it means defending the chavista way of thinking and for the opposition it means denouncing in vociferous way what is going on.

    It is neither. The role should be, first of all, helping the millions of people that have issues with the State (in a way replacing Chavez in his dealing with ministers in Alo Presidente) and making recommendations concerning the State institutions. Gabriela Ramírez should be the one reviewing the treatments of inmates and their relationships with the justice system, for instance.

  10. Now about the fact that the oriental pipe should be banned…it reminds me of the guy that got rid of the sofa because his wife was using the sofa to cheat on him.

  11. The point is missing i think. It’s not about whats being banned.
    It’s about the ombudsman worrying about bull*** instead of other, more important issues.

  12. Exactly. There is already warning on cigarette packs about smoking being dangerous to your health. So it is always a choice to either smoke or not. Even with water pipes, hookahs or what nots. Instead of thinking about the health choice of these smokers, why not worry about other issues in this world.


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