Hookah smoking is a growing trend among young people. This practice of smoking through an oversized pipe is rapidly gaining a following as hookah bars open up and cafes and coffee shops dedicate special areas for hookah devotees to enjoy a leisurely smoke. Originating in India, the practice of hookah smoking has spread to the Middle Eastern countries and is now growing in the United States as young people look for an alternative to smoking cigarettes. Most people who smoke through a hookah pipe use flavored tobaccos known as shisha. These tobaccos are enhanced with molasses and fruit flavorings before being added to the pipe. Hookah smoking is often portrayed as being healthier than smoking traditional cigarettes. Is this true? What are the potential risks and side effects of hookah smoking?
The Effects of Hookah Smoking: How Is It Done?
Hookah smoking is carried out through a special water pipe that contains a bowl for holding the shisha or flavored tobacco. The base of the pipe contains water and the smoke is sucked through a long, thin pipe. When the hookah smoker inhales through the pipe, the smoke passes through the water before it enters the pipe to be inhaled into the lungs. Many believe that the water filters out many of the toxins contained within the tobacco, making the effects of hookah smoking less damaging than traditional cigarettes. Another argument for the safety of hookah smoking is that some users use shisha tobaccos that are lower in nicotine than traditional cigarette tobacco. Despite this, it appears that more smoke is inhaled in a single hookah session than by those who smoke traditional cigarettes. This is because the smoke is cooled before being inhaled, allowing larger quantities to be inhaled and held in the lungs for longer periods of time.
Side Effects of Hookah Smoking: How Does It Compare to Cigarette Smoking?
Are the effects of hookah less damaging than cigarette smoking? One study that looked at nicotine and levels of a breakdown product of nicotine in the urine found that both were elevated in hookah smokers, although levels were slightly lower than those seen in cigarette smokers. Not only that, but hookah smokers are exposed to other toxins such as carbon monoxide, heavy metals, and a variety of cancer causing chemicals which are no less dangerous than those found in cigarette smoke. It appears that hookah smokers have the same increased risk of developing lung disease and lung cancers as cigarette smokers. There’s also the potential for nicotine addiction, just as with conventional cigarettes.
Effects of Hookah Smoking: The Bottom Line
The only advantage may be that hookah smoking is usually done strictly on a social basis which may reduce the exposure to toxins. All in all, it’s not a healthier alternative to cigarette smoking.