Hookah Smoking – Dangers you should be aware of

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Before you puff away at that hookah with your friends, be aware that you might actually be harming yourself.

The hookah has gotten popular in urban India off lateWhat is a hookah?

The hookah, also known as sheesha or goza, was once seen only in Bollywood movies, being puffed at by spoilt nawabs and patrons of the nautch girls. Today, this age-old tradition has come back as a trendy hobby for young people unwinding at coffee shops or hookah bars. While, this tradition has been around for many years and is, in fact, a part of many Asian cultures, it does have health issues that one should be be aware of.

Anatomy of a hookah

Most hookahs consist of a water pipe attached to a smoke chamber. Tobacco used in hookahs is specially prepared, making it possible for the smoke to pass easily through water.

Many young people smoke hookahs for their fruity flavours and are under the impression that hookahs do not contain any tobacco. This is in fact, not true. While most modern hookahs do come with a fruity aroma, tobacco is also used and has the same ill-effects as any other form of tobacco.

Ill effects of hookah smoking

According to the World Health Organization, hookah contains numerous toxicants known to cause lung cancer, heart disease and other diseases. If you’re into hookahs, be aware of the ways in which it can be harmful to you:

  • A hookah session may expose the smoker to more smoker over a longer perod of time than when smoking a cigarette.
  • Hookahs are typically smoked for a longer time than regular cigarettes. Cigarette smokers typically take 8 to 12, 40-75 ml puffs over 5 – 7 minutes and inhale 0.5 to 0.6 litres of smoke. In contrast, hookah smoking sessions last 20 – 80 minutes, during which the smoker may take 50 – 200 puffs which range from 0.15 to 1 litres of smoke each.
  • Also, the reduced concentration of nicotine in the waterpipe smoke may result in smokers inhaling higher amounts of smoke.
  • There is no filter in a hookah and the water in a hookah can’t filter out lethal tobacco ingredients.
  • Another health hazard the hook presents is in the form of its pipes and bowls. As these are typically not cleaned for long periods of time, they become a hotbed for spreading infectious diseases amongst users.

Are hookahs safe for teens?

In one word, no. Smoking hookahs is as harmful as cigarette smoking. It leads to the inhalation of many toxic compounds like tar, carbon monoxide and heavy metals, making it a major cancer risk.

It can also cause lung or oral disease, heart disease and other critical illnesses in youngsters. Worse, it could lead to a non-smoker getting addicted to nicotine.

 Are hookahs safer than cigarettes?

  • That hookahs are safer than cigarettes is one of the biggest misconceptions that’s lead to their popularity. Hookahs are as dangerous or maybe even more harmful than cigarettes. The long duration (typically 40 minutes) as well as the absence of any filter makes them highly unsafe. So if you want to stay away from tobacco, as you should, then stay away from hookahs as well.

Hookahs that use herbal molasses

Some hookah bars offer tobacco-less hookah, using herbal molasses instead. These are definitely safer than regular hookahs, but do check with the hookah bar first if they offer this option.

Photograph by Selma Yalazi and Thiago Rodrigues da Silva, via sxc.hu
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