Updated on 21 October 2008
Water pipes (hookahs) are the first new tobacco trends of the 21st century, giving new popularity to an old form of tobacco use. Hookah use continues to grow among teenagers; however, misconceptions about the safety of hookah use are widespread and need to be addressed.
BACKGROUND/ HISTORY OF WATERPIPE TOBACCO USE:
The water pipe is used to smoke specially made tobacco by indirectly heating the tobacco with burning embers or charcoal which then filters the smoke through a bowl of water. The smoke is then drawn through a rubber hose to a mouthpiece, where it is inhaled by the user.
Hookah smoking originated in ancient Persia and India, and spread throughout the Middle East and Asia during the 15th Century. In the late 20th century, sweeter additives and more flavors were developed to make the hookah more appealing. As people emigrated to Europe and the United States from the Middle East and Africa, Hookah cafes began appearing in European cities and are now growing in popularity in the United States as well. Hookahs have become popular among the urban youth, young professionals, and college students.
HEALTH EFFECTS OF HOOKAH SMOKING:
The existing evidence on hookah use indicates that smoking through a hookah carries the same or similar health risks as cigarette smoking. These adverse health effects include increased risk of lung, oral and bladder cancer and heart disease.
While studies of mainstream smoke from hookahs found that it contains similar amounts of nicotine, tar and heavy metals as other Tobacco products, some experts believe that hookah smoking increases exposure to toxic substances over other products. This is due in part to the way hookah smoking occurs in contrast to cigarette smoking. Hookah smokers use a water pipe over a much longer period of time, often 40-45 minutes, rather than the 5-10 minutes it takes to smoke cigarette.
Because the inhalation and exposure to smoke occurs over a longer and more sustained period of time, a hookah smoker could potentially inhale as much smoke in a single session as consuming 100 or more cigarettes.
Another problem with hookah smoking is the commonly used heat sources that are applied to burn the tobacco, such as wood cinders or charcoal. These substances, when burned, release high levels of potentially dangerous chemicals including carbon monoxide and metals. Some research suggests that hookah smoke is therefore more dangerous, as it contains smoke from the tobacco itself as well as smoke from the heat source used to burn the tobacco.
Although more research needs to be done to determine long term health effects of hookah smoking, available research strongly indicates that it presents many of the same risks as cigarette smoking, and should not be viewed as a safe alternative to smoking.
PERCEPTION AND AWARENESS:
Hookahs are often considered more pleasant for smokers, because the smell, taste and smoothness of the sweetened tobacco provide much less irritating smoking experience than traditional cigarette smoking. Experienced Smokers sometimes add other liquids, such as fruit juice, to change the taste and effect of the smoke. Hookah smoking also offers a more affordable method of smoking than cigarette smoking, which creates incentive for its use.
Shisha is 100 times worse than cigarettes:
“An advisory note from the WHO says that smoking a hookah may expose the smoker to more smoke over a longer period of time than occurs when smoking cigarettes.”
“Because smoking a hookah may take up to 80 minutes, the report suggests that the smoker is subjecting himself to as much smoke as somebody dragging on 100 cigarettes.”
Whoever is thinking that they are safe with hookahs as opposed to cigarettes are only fooling themselves. It is especially sad to see this trend catching on fire in the Muslim world.
Let’s do whatever it takes to halt this phenomenon, especially in preventing our youths from indulging in this harmful habit. Spread the word!