An Hour Of Smoking Hookah Is As Harmful As 100 Cigarettes
Hubbly-bubbly, hookah or shisha – whatever name it goes by, puffing on a Turkish waterpipe is the latest trend to hit bars and cafes. The flavored tobacco, which is smoked via a long pipe connected to a vessel filled with water, is particularly fashionable among us college students, with the number of specialist bars rising 210 percent since 2007.
But the World Health Organization has warned that a one-hour shisha session can be as harmful as smoking 100 cigarettes.
This is because a cigarette smoker typically takes between eight and 12 puffs, inhaling 0.5 to 0.6 litres of smoke. But during hour-long shisha sessions smokers may take up to 200 drags, ranging from 0.15 to 1 litre of smoke each.
‘Shisha smoking is a growing concern because people aren’t aware of the risks like they are with cigarette smoking,’ says Professor Robert West, director of tobacco studies at University College London.
‘The greater the exposure in terms of duration and amount smoked, the greater the risk to your health’
That’s because although shisha tobacco tastes nicer than cigarettes, it contains all the same toxicants known to cause lung cancer and heart disease.
Some of the risks associated with Smoking Hookah are
- Heart disease
- Respiratory problems
- Lung cancer
- Mouth cancer
- Problems during pregnancy.
How it effects you
‘Smoke from tobacco contains a number of carcinogens which damage the DNA in cells,’ explains Professor West. ‘Just one damaged cell can divide and multiply uncontrollably and quite quickly develop into a large tumour. This is what causes lung cancer,’ explains Professor West
What supporters say
Enthusiasts claim that as the smoke passes through water most of the harmful chemicals are absorbed, however there is no evidence to support this.
‘If people think it’s safer than cigarettes, when it’s not, they need to be informed otherwise,’ said Professor West.
There are other risks. As the mouthpiece is passed around from person to person, this raises the risk of transmitting diseases such as tuberculosis and hepatitis.
How Hookah works
- The tobacco is burned with charcoal in a bowl that sits above the vessel.
- The smoke it produces passes through the water in the container and goes down the pipe so the user can sit by the vessel and an inhale it with their mouth.
- The smoke is cooled by the water and makes it feel less ‘harsh’ – and experts warn that as a result people inhale it more deeply into their lungs, which increases the risks even further.
Why people favor it
Shisha tobacco is flavoured with fruit molasses such as apple and strawberry, so the residual redolent smoke is sweet. Because it doesn’t taste like a cigarette, people often think of it as being safer or better. Many young people who don’t usually smoke are attracted to this seemingly harmless activity. It’s also a cheaper option than buying a round at the pub.
So what will happen?
As the weather gets warmer, and shisha becomes more and more fashionable, experts are calling for better health warnings.
Professor West suggests: ‘Shisha cafes should have prominent notices saying, “Smoking shisha can kill” – just like you would on a cigarette packet.’