Hookahs, rapidly becoming popular among young adults in the US, can damage their health, a fact that has not been understood yet, warns a new study.
Researchers at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina used an online survey to interview a random sample of students from eight North Carolina colleges and universities on their smoking patterns, drug habits, and their awareness about these activities.
The percentage of students who smoked tobacco from a hookah was not very much at variance from the percentage of those who smoked cigarettes. While 40.3 per cent had used hookahs at some time, 46.6 had smoked a cigarette. 25 per cents of the students currently smoked cigarettes and 17.4 per cent reported that they regularly used a hookah.
The survey revealed the profile of a typical hookah user - freshmen and males, and there was usually a recent association between them and those who smoked cigarettes, smoked marijuana, used other illegal drugs and had drank alcohol.
With hookah bars becoming increasingly accessible and popular, young people have found this habit of using a hookah very attractive. A single or multi-stemmed smoking instrument, often made of glass, consisting of a smoke chamber, a bowl, a pipe and a hose, it uses charcoal to heat specially made tobacco that has been soaked in molasses or honey and is highly flavored. Many hookah cafes offer exotic flavorings - from chocolate to bubble gum, mango to jasmine, and mint to rose petals. The smoke contains high levels of toxic compounds, including tar, carbon monoxide, heavy metals and cancer-causing chemicals.
What the young users do not know is that hookah smoking can cause damaging health effects, according to Erin L. Sutfin, an assistant professor at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and the lead researcher in the study that has been reported in Drug and Alcohol Dependence
In fact, she says, many mistakenly think hookahs are much safer than cigarette smoking.
What may help them in understanding the gravity of the health risk they face is the serious step Bangalore, India has taken in banning hookahs, in spite of widespread protests.