A typical hookah consists of a head or bowl to hold the tobacco, a sturdy body, a base containing water, and a long pipe with a mouthpiece. Burning charcoal is placed in the bowl containing the tobacco, which has a variety of aromatic, sweet-scented flavors.
Waterpipes are known by different names in different countries. Some of these are indicated below:
- Hookah (Indian subcontinent)
- Narghile (Israel)
- Argileh (Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Jordan, Azerbaijan, and Kuwait)
- Chillim (Uzbekistan and Afghanistan)
- Shisha (Egypt, Sudan, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Somalia, and countries of the Arab Peninsula)
Hookah Smoking: Facts and Figures
- Nearly 4.8 percent high school students in the US smoke hookah
- Around 13.6 percent of young adults aged 18-24 years in the US smoke hookah
- The age-group of 18-24 years accounts for 55 percent hookah smokers across the US
- Hookah smokers are more likely to start smoking cigarettes than non-hookah smokers
- Hookah smoking is spreading at an alarming rate among the youth worldwide
- As per a survey of seven Middle East countries, the rate of hookah smoking ranges between 9-15 percent, which is higher than cigarette smoking in some other countries
- A UK study showed that the prevalence of hookah smoking is more than double that of cigarette smoking
Why is Hookah Smoking Dangerous?
"Hookah smoke contains harmful substances and the American Heart Association strongly recommends avoiding the use of tobacco in any form,"
- In a typical 30-minute hookah smoking session many liters of smoke, filled with large amounts of particulate matter enters the lungs at much higher concentrations than cigarettes
- In a single hookah smoking session, more carbon monoxide enters the body, compared to a cigarette
- Even short-term exposure to carbon monoxide is harmful and can significantly reduce exercise capacity
- Hookah smoke also contains high levels of other toxic chemicals that are harmful to the cardiovascular system and the levels of which are much higher than in cigarette smoke. Some of these toxic substances include the following:
- Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
- Suspended particulate matter
- Volatile organic chemicals
- Hookah smoking adversely affects blood pressure and heart rate
- Regular hookah smoking significantly increases the risk of heart diseases such as coronary artery disease
says Dr. Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D., Chair of the writing group for the statement and Professor of Medicine and Director of the University of Louisville Diabetes and Obesity Center in Kentucky, USA.
Why is Hookah Smoking Not Considered Harmful?
Hookah smoking is perceived as not harmful, possibly due to the following reasons:
- In a hookah, since the smoke is filtered through water, it is not considered harmful, although no scientific evidence exists to support this claim
- The wide variety of flavors and sweet aroma of the tobacco and attractive packaging tempts young people to smoke hookah
- The flavors and sweetness of the tobacco masks the characteristic harsh taste of the smoke, which makes it easier for youngsters to get hooked to smoking hookahs
- Promotion and advertising in social media is also a major factor for the popularity of hookah smoking
- Misperceptions about the addictive potential and health hazards are other factors for the high prevalence of hookah smoking
- Since hookah tobacco packages do not carry any health warnings, it is perceived as not harmful
- Since many people smoke hookahs casually as a way of social interaction, recreation, and relaxation, it is perceived as less habit-forming
A misperception about hookah smoking prevails in the society that it is not harmful. In contrast, since the harmful effects of cigarettes are well known, these are largely avoided by the youth. Therefore, there is a need for more research for developing evidence-based policies to emphasize and communicate the harmful effects of hookah smoking to the public. Furthermore, the role of doctors is vital for providing counseling to patients who are hookah smokers to help them kick the habit. Reference :
- Water Pipe (Hookah) Smoking and Cardiovascular Disease Risk: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association - (https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000671)