Is Hookah Smoking Dangerous?

Gokul Rajan
23 January 2012

Has anyone ever told you that hookah smoking is safer than cigarette smoking? Well, I hear that quite often from my friends. But, they are incorrect. In fact, hookah smoking can be even more harmful than cigarette smoking. Why? Because, there is NO safe way to use tobacco! Whether you inhale it or chew it, the effects are detrimental to your health.

Did You Know?
Tobacco is a risk factor for six of the eight leading causes of death in humans.

The hookah has many names including shisha, water pipe and narghile. Originally from India, hookah is extremely popular in the Middle East and is now gaining popularity throughout the world. Many young Canadians are attracted to the hookah pipe because of the misconception that hookah smoking is not harmful.

The hookah is made of a clay or marble bowl, or head, that holds the tobacco; a long slender tube that allows tobacco to be drawn into the smoker’s mouth; and a water jar, at the bottom of the hookah, which the smoke passes through. It is a tall, freestanding instrument. The smoke gains moisture as it passes through the water, making it easier to inhale. Tobacco used in hookah pipes is soaked in molasses and then flavoured, often with fruit flavours. It tastes much better than cigarette smoke. The hookah is typically smoked in a social setting—passed from person to person—often in cafes or restaurants.

But, while it may seem like a lot of fun at the time—the damage to your body can be quite severe. Hookah tobacco contains toxins like tar, nicotine, carbon monoxide, and heavy metals. And, while some people wrongly assume that all the toxins get dissolved in the water, this is not the case. Toxins such as tar—a potential carcinogen—are not soluble in water. The implications of a 30 to 60 minute hookah smoking session can be as detrimental as smoking an entire pack of cigarettes!

One of the problems is the pleasant smell and taste of the smoke often tempts the user to smoke deeper and longer. Moreover, the tobacco in a water pipe is burning at a lower temperature and thus can be inhaled more deeply. This means the tobacco smoke can more easily penetrate your lungs when compared to cigarette smoke.

One study shows that hookah smoking involved 48 times more smoke inhalation than a cigarette. To make matters worse, in hookah bars and cafes, if the pipes are not cleaned properly between uses, smokers may be at risk of contacting a disease or infection.

Did You Know?
Tobacco kills more than 5 million people every year.

The health risks of hookah smoking are numerous and can include—cancer, respiratory infections, heart disease and more. So while it may seem fun or harmless, consider your health and say no to hookah!

Learn more!

Hold the Hookah: Researcher Warns Against Trendy TobaccoUse, ScienceDaily

Facts from WHO Tobacco Free Initiative

Mayo Clinic Health Information

Article first published January 11, 2012

Gokul Rajan

Gokul lives in New Delhi, India. He is a Masters Student in the Department of Biosciences & Bioengineering at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)- Bombay. Apart from Science, he enjoys travelling, reading and music. He is an athlete too, and loves cycling and running

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