Hookah: The Unbeknownst Silent Killer

hookah bar

It has been brought to my attention that for some reason, people are misled to think that hookah is a “safe” alternative to cigarette smoking. Indeed, hundreds of hookah bars have already been set up around the U.S. By 2006, around 200-300 of them have been established. Might as well set up cigarette bars while they’re at it. But no, seriously, it really does horrify me to think that a decent number of people are apparently deceived into thinking that hookah does not have the same negative impact as cigarettes, if not worse.

So what exactly is hookah? Well, hookah is a waterpipe specially designed to smoke tobacco. Essentially, the tobacco is burned, and then the generated tobacco smoke passes through a water bowl and ultimately travels through a pipe from which the user inhales. The practice originated in the Far and Middle East, and has relatively recently started to become more popular than ever before in the U.S., with the targeted audience being college kids and young adults.

The hookah companies are effective in attracting the youth to experiment with their products. Using the naivety of the youth to their advantage, they produce flavored tobacco called shisha that comes in many fruity flavors that the youth are familiar with: apple, mint, cherry, etc. Hookah bars are set up near college campuses and in cities/towns with large young adult populations to promote social gatherings. Battery-powered hookah pens that can be stored in your pocket are made to increase the convenience of hookah smoking, much easier than bringing a big ol’ hookah pipe everywhere you go. In doing so, these hookah-affiliated businesses are sending subliminal messages that hookah smoking is harmless and fun.

Hookah smoking and breathing in the secondhand smoke is at the very least as harmful and addicting as cigarette smoke. Like cigarette smoke, the ingredients encompassing hookah smoke is ample in carcinogenic (cancer-causing) compounds: arsenic, cobalt, chromium, and lead, as well as high levels of carbon monoxide that rival the those of cigarette smoke. In other words, hookah smoke contains the same toxic chemicals as in cigarette smoke known to cause increased risks of lung, bladder, stomach, esophageal, and oral cancers. Other lung and heart diseases may also arise, and detrimental effects are seen during pregnancy. Additionally, unlike cigarette smoke, hookah smoke may also have charcoal or wood cinder combustion products from the heat source that are also known to be carcinogenic and another cause of heart disease.

Those who don’t think that hookah usage can lead to an addiction are deluded, for waterpipe smokers are exposed to the same compound found in cigarettes that causes addiction: nicotine. The risk for addiction is further increased due to the typical length of a session, which may last 20-80 minutes. During this time, the hookah smoker can take in as much smoke produced by 100+ cigarettes. If you like numbers, here’s another number for you: during an average session, ~90,000 mL of smoke is inhaled. Now compare that number to smoking a cigarette, which is ~500-600 mL.

To end the article, I need to be fair by not only mentioning the cons of hookah use, but also its possible health benefits as well. So I will list them. They are as follows:

 

 

 

 

 

 

…Check out these links for more info:

American Cancer Society:

http://www.cancer.org/cancer/news/expertvoices/post/2012/05/29/hookahs-are-trendy-but-are-they-safe.aspx

Center for Disease Control and Prevention:

http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/tobacco_industry/hookahs/

hookah_pipe

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